How to discourage woodchucks from building a den near a home/barn
Good morning! My mom is having a major issue with woodchucks repeatedly burrowing holes/dens around a specific area around her home and her barn. We have tried a few things, including poison, filling holes with concrete, and cutting away shrubs, and it seems like there is something around that specific part of the home which attracts them. I found a website with some information (https://dengarden.com/gardening/How-to-Get-Rid-of-Woodchucks-Ground-Hogs), including pouring ammonia down the tunnel. We are hoping that once we have no more activity to lay down chickenwire on the ground (held down with camping spikes) to discourage any more activity. Do any of the recommendations actually help or do you have other options? My mom is a little on the older side so trapping, etc. are not very practical for her.
Thanks for your inquiry. Unfortunately woodchucks are quite pervasive and they seem to return to preferred burrowing sites despite trapping/killing efforts (others take the place of trapped/killed individuals).
The methods you have already tried are many of the things I suggest to people with the same issue, so I'm afraid I don't have much to add to what you've already tried. Sustained trapping is often the most effective, but as you said, not practical in your situation.
You could try using repellents like predator urine, chemical repellents, and electronic (visual/noise) repellents. These repellents can also be combined and alternated to keep your local woodchucks from habituating to each repellent. Usually available at local garden/home stores. These may be worth trying, but don't seem to often have a sustained impact.
Your last note about laying down chicken wire is probably what I would recommend trying next. You can dig each burrow out about 1 foot deep, then cover the hole with 3' x 3' of wire fencing and bury the fencing securely to block the gophers from using their existing tunnels. If the problem area overall is small enough, you could do this along the entire area you're concerned about, but that may not be feasible.
Keeping the area free of shrubs, debris, and plants they eat (garden fruits/vegetables) can also help the area appear less attractive to woodchucks.
Best of luck!
Clay: Thank you very much for the quick and insightful response. I (and my mom) greatly appreciate it! For the repellents, is there anything I should look for in the ingredient list which will help me determine if the product works? I also read that used cat litter may help.
You're welcome and I hope some of these approaches will help. There aren't really any specific ingredients that are proven to work better than others and I think it often depends on the individual woodchuck (e.g., some are more risk adverse than others and will respond differently to different products). In my experience, for every person that says one repellent worked for them, there are 5 others that will say it did nothing! Unfortunately that means some trial and error may be necessary. This also relates to my previous comment about needing to switch methods every so often; woodchucks (and most animals) will habituate to newly perceived threats once they realize they never actually experience a risk for their behavior. So for example, you may start with trying used cat litter (especially if you have a cat!) and see if it works for a few weeks, then maybe switch to a commercial product, then to a different predator scent (e.g., coyote/fox urine), then back to cat litter. The idea here is to keep the perceived risk of predators novel to the woodchucks.
I have woodchucks around my house too and I'll say that their determination is impressive. I have two dogs that hunt them relentlessly and the woodchucks still seem to think burrowing under my shed is a good idea! So my repellent suggestions come with a bit of honesty that they likely won't be perfectly effective at keeping woodchucks away if they really want to burrow around your house/barn.