Posted on: June 26, 2007 Posted by: Nicole Harding Comments: 31

Groundhog, woodchuck, or whistling pig – they all amount to the same thing: a cute, furry pest. The genus, Marmota monax, known best through its weather-predicting spokesperson, Punxsutawney Phil, is found in lowland areas of the Northeast (such as Punxsutawney, PA) and the Midwest United States, but has also somehow burrowed its way into northern Washington state, Alaska, and British Columbia, Canada.

Also called the woodchuck (and, no, we don’t know how much wood a woodchuck would chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood), the genus is more commonly called “groundhog,” so named because, like a pig, it roots in the earth. We don’t know why some call it “whistlepig,” however, because nowhere has it been recorded that these things can whistle. We do know that the name “woodchuck” is the English corruption of an Indian name for the animal.

The groundhog is a type of marmot, and what marmots are, essentially, are very large squirrels. Squirrels root in the earth to bury acorns for storage. This seldom bothers people because squirrels, having quite small paws, dig only tiny holes (Learn how to get rid of squirrels). Woodchucks, having large paws, dig big holes, not to bury acorns but to build tunnels to live in, and they will dig them in any relatively flat area, including your lawn. This makes them nuisances to those who prefer having lawns that are un-besmirched by groundhog burrows.

Groundhog Facts: Why they’re a Nuisance

Some more things that make groundhogs unwelcome:

  • They love to eat vegetation, and that includes vegetation that the owner of the groundhog-besmirched lawn has planted for their eating and/or viewing pleasure
  • Their tunnels are rather extensive and complex, having many entrances and emergency exits; if a web of tunnels extends under a structure’s foundation, they can crack, weaken, or even sink it.
  • A horse or other large animal can break a leg from stepping in a groundhog hole.

By clearing out forests and killing off wolves and other natural predators, farmers and foresters have caused the groundhog to proliferate over the past century. Now that human habitation is spreading beyond cities and suburbs, homeowners face close encounters with these buck-toothed fur-balls. Whereas the not-so-little varmints (they can weigh up to 30 pounds) still fear their ancient predators, many of whom are no longer around, they aren’t all that afraid of humans. Therefore, hunters can get close enough to get an easy shot at Mr. Woodchuck.

Hunting, you would think, would keep groundhog populations in check. It doesn’t, any more than it keeps the deer population in check. These rodents reproduce faster than marksmen could possibly eliminate them, and hunting, as a sport, has declined in popularity over the past few decades. Besides, if you’re going to hunt something, why not hunt something you can eat?

Not that you can’t eat groundhog. Apparently it was pretty common to be served at rural dinner tables back in the 19th Century, and people in the Ozarks and Appalachia still eat squirrel, a cousin of the groundhog. But groundhogs hibernate in the winter; therefore, much of its body’s bulk is food stored away in the form of fat, making the creature rather greasy eating. Besides, they’re also cousins of the rat, and in western society, there is a taboo against eating rats.

Getting Rid of Groundhogs

So, unless you want to use them for target practice (which may be illegal where you live so, if you want to shoot them, best check with your local authorities), you’re going to need some method for getting rid of them that doesn’t require a gun.

There are as many old-time “folk remedies” for shooing them, as there are modern technologies:

  • Dropping moth balls in their burrows or blocking the holes with ammonia-soaked rags
  • Simulated urine of predators, such as foxes; supposedly putting some in their burrows scares them off
  • Putting commercially available poison gas cartridges into their burrows, particularly during their hibernation period.
  • Hooking a hose to an automobile exhaust pipe, extending the hose down a burrow, and running the engine until the groundhogs come out; they will then have to be trapped
  • Placing near their burrow an electronic device that emits high frequency noise; this irritates them to the point of leaving.

Groundhog Removal

The only certain way to rid yourself of groundhogs is to trap them. Leghold traps may be used, though with one of those, you will then have to kill the animal, and you need to check with local authorities on whether such traps are legal where you live. You may also use a non-lethal trap to catch the groundhog and then release the trapped animal in another location. Such traps may be purchased or, sometimes, borrowed from a humane organization.

Drawbacks to catch-and-release:

  • As with any kind of trap, you’re going to have to find the opening to the burrow to place the trap; this is not always easy.
  • The animals may not take the bait, preferring to eat what’s available around them.
  • You may not have a place to release them. You cannot release the creatures on private property without the owner’s permission. Public lands may prohibit releasing them there; in fact, some states don’t allow this practice at all. If you do find a place to release the animals, the place must be at least five miles away so that they cannot find their way back.

Your best bet is to do this in the spring, when groundhog holes will be easier to find and groundhogs, coming out of their hibernation, will be hungrier for your bait. The place that provides your trap can give you advice on baiting it. Spring is also preferable because you will be ridding yourself of the groundhogs before they reproduce and give you more animals to get rid of.

If you don’t want to put up with the nuisance of doing it yourself, there are also plenty of pest control agencies you can hire who will get rid of the groundhogs for you. Find one that guarantees their work.

Click here for more information about how to get rid of groundhogs 

31 People reacted on this

  1. I was told of a poison (powered I think) that could be set out that would be attractive to groundhogs and fatal when eaten. Can’t think of the name. Can anyone help??

  2. i shot one in the face yesterday with my 22 MAG thats the best way i know to get rid of the notorious MR. Woodchuck

  3. Last summer one dug a tunnel alongside my foundation, which is stone, house built in 1890, thought it went away, but in the last 2 weeks new dirt is all over and a second tunnel is started 3 feet down along the same wall. The live trap I set last year didn’t catch one. Need someone to sit in my driveway with a gun and catch these things. (But not someone who relishes killing so by shooting it in the face and then sharing it with us! – Kyle can ya just do it and not share? … am in Michigan).

  4. I have a woodchuck that has burrowed under the corner of of my house and breezeway and i’m looking for a good poison to get rid of it any suggestions. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  5. Was hoping to find some humane solutions here, glad to hear some people are considering live catch and release traps. Please encourage humane ways to manage the conflict between animal and humans sharing same space. Thank you.

  6. The reason they are called whistle pigs is because when you hunt them if you whistle they will stand up to give you that perfect shot.

  7. After trying many remedies I discovered one that works: I read that they don’t like to live where other animals live (on a site selling animal scent for outrageous price). My solution was to dump well-used cat litter box into every entrance I could find. Gone within a few days! Plus, the litter helps fill the holes.

  8. I have shot 5 bottle rockets down their holes every day for a week and I still see him going in it..
    How is that possiable?

  9. If you’re using a have a heart trap to catch a groundhog you have to use green apple. It’s the only type they like. Red apples don’t work. I’ve trapped many using the green apple method.

  10. I have a grondhog living under my deck and we put a cage but he’s not in it yet and my dog keeps going to 3 holes this guy is huge and my dog is small im wored

  11. We have a groundhog that is eating out veggie garden. We don’t know where his tunnel is to put anything that was suggested down it. We just want to protect our crops. Is there any thing we can use to put on the plants themselves that he won’t eat?

  12. First off, the whistling pig thing is because call to eachother with a high-pitched squeal. I have at least two that came back this year. A few years ago my dog, a medium shepherd mix, killed three or four of them. The second I opened the back door he was off like a shot and those things were dead in seconds. He then proceeded to toss them up in the air (the small ones anyway) in celebration. Too bad I don’t have him anymore. Have one under the shed and one under the deck. As soon as one hears something it whistles and they bolt to their separate hiding places. I plan on going Elmer Fudd style on them.

  13. We rented a trap from Critter Control. Our under the deck groundhog wouldn’t go near it no matter where we placed it and we tried all the recommended baits. However, we observed him eating bird seed under the bird feeder repeatedly. We placed a parsley plant in a pot as bait in the trap and a small bowl of bird seed. Took about 1/2 hr., but slowlyyyyyy he entered and that was it. Never knew they are so very timid and that birdseed was the clue.

  14. Several valley marmots in riprap along river. Now evidence under my deck and crawl space. Can burrowing be 40-50feet? Or do I have a second resident group

  15. I think the leg traps are alittle extreme all they do is eat your vegetables in your garden it’s not like they are eating your kids for heaven’s sake.

  16. Not a whole lot that i havent tried on these oversized rats. poisons dont work (they are to smart to eat it), and flooding just sends them to another hole. . . they have 6 on my property (3 under my house). i laughed when i saw “grounghogs” on the disclosure when i bought the house, 6 years later im not laughing anymore! i trapped 9 the first year with the have-a-heart trap. but even if they dont find their way back, its like a little groundhod vaccancy sign pops up and more move in. if you fill in the hole with rocks (or cement), they just dig around it. they dont care about any type of powdered pepper, or animal scent. broken glass in their hole just gets moved to the side or pushed out. they even climb up the the window and look in the house! no more games, i want these things d.e.a.d. im in a neighborhood, so shooting is not an option. and unless anyone has another suggestion, i plan on standing over each hole with a shovle and beating their fuzzy little heads in. incase this sounds a tad excesive, you should know they have undermined the foundation of my home, requiring me to spend thousands of dollars on new floors if i ever have hopes of selling the house.

  17. We have plenty of groundhogs where I live. I never heard one whistle. I thought the reason they had the nickname whistle pig was because if you whistle they’ll stand up on their haunches.

  18. One poison I have heard that works is green antifreeze in a bowl or drilled into an apple. Will be trying that tonight. Just keep the dog away. It seems and tastes very sweet but is highly poisonous.

  19. We have them at are house traps work but killing them i think is the only way to get rid of them if your in an urban area where you can’t shoot them with a gun you can use a bow they work good

  20. OK, first off – “Hunting, you would think, would keep groundhog populations in check. It doesn’t, any more than it keeps the deer population in check.” Whoever wrote this obviously does not know what they are talking about. You don’t see hunters at Cabela’s lining up to get new gear for groundhog season. Sure, there are those that will take them as a target of opportunity, but there are very few folks who actually go out “groundhog hunting”. If there were, believe me, we could eradicate them, just like we did with the buffalo and the wolves. Do some research on prairie dogs, and look at how much their home range has diminished due to urban expansion and hunting. Also, to say that there are still people in the Ozarks that eat squirrels….what a bunch of crap. Don’t paint those people as a bunch of backwoods bumpkins, there are small game hunters all over this county that eat squirrels, rabbits, and yes, even groundhogs!

    Now that I have that off my chest, there is a sure fire method to catching / killing groundhogs very efficiently, if his hole is not against a building, or otherwise somewhere that you cannot stand behind the hole. It is easy to tell which direction the groundhog likes to approach the hole from, because it will be worn. When you see the groundhog out and about, get a partner and run towards the critter, making lots of noise. He will immediately run into his hole. You and your partner walk right up to the hole, speaking loudly. You stand quietly on the back side of the hole, while your partner walks directly away from the hole, speaking loudly (sing a song, or count loudly, just keep making noise). Groundhogs have no sense of number, and when he hears your partner walking away from the hole, he will start to inch his way up out of the hole to watch the threat walk away. It usually takes less than a minute for him to get curious and want to take a peek. When he presents enough of himself for a humane kill shot, you may fire at will. A .22 rifle / handgun or bow and arrow will work just fine. The bow is nice for urban settings – your neighbors will be none the wiser. For the more adventurous, a 5ft length of conduit with a 12ft length of 1/4″ rope doubled through it will make a very nice snare that you can slip over his head and pull him from the hole. He will not like this – hence the 5ft length of rigid conduit, to keep him at a safe distance from you. If you prepare ahead of time, you can snare him and place him “gently” in a garbage can or 55 gallon steel drum for transport to a more groundhog friendly environment. If you choose this method, be careful, they can be very aggressive when cornered, and the larger ones can lay a hurting on you. Anyway, I know the whole thing sounds like a crock, but it is guaranteed to work every time. Try it once, just for fun, to see the hog poke his head up out of the hole while you are standing 2 feet behind him. It is pretty cool.

  21. We have at least one big groundhog living under our front cememt porch. He was in our fenced in back yard yesterday and our 4 dogs had it cornered – he couldn’t figure out how to get back on the other side of the fence. Got the dogs in the house and my husband opened a gate and ran it out, and of course it ran right back under the front porch. I saw a smaller one a couple months ago on my front step, but wasn’t sure what it was – so now i am assuming we have at least a family living under the porch. I am reading up on them now and know they can definitely damage the structure of our house. Going to try to trap him/them and go from there. A friend said she was successful trapping using lettuce and carrots as bait. I have 2 cats indoors and have plenty of used kitty litter i could throw under the porch also.
    wish me luck!

  22. Whistle pigs do whistle. It is a high pitched, loud, short warning sound. Other groundhogs in the area respond by looking up to see the threat and by running back to the safety of their burrows. It sounds like a person calling, whistling for a dog. I’ve heard them and watched them whistle. The groundhogs lift their heads up and look like they are quickly forcing all the air out of their lungs very rapidly to produce a loud sound. So, now you have it recorded. Groundhogs are called whistle pigs because they whistle.

  23. This past summer I had a huge groundhog problem…I humanely removed them from my property with a live trap. I baited it with a juicy red apple. I then took the groundhogs across water where it could dig a new tunnel for their den and not return to the fortress in my yard.

    I do not agree with leg irons as they will cause pain and suggering for the groundhog. In many states in America it against the law to use leg irons. This is an inhumane method for trapping a ground hog. Live small animal traps are better.

  24. While groundhogs do some damage, wouldn’t it be better to learn to live with them or remove them humanely? We move into their territory and then hate them for being there. I agree with Diane.

  25. This is not a tip — I have tried the havahart trap for two years. I have no flowers or plants left — this is urban New Jersey — the lot next to me is vacant and we are in a park like setting — any suggestions to control this rodents? Thanks.

  26. I have trapped them with no problem but another one moves right in; tried wolf urine, coyote urine, moth balls, cat litter, cement blocks, pickles & other smelly food, moth balls, pinwheels, cat hair, cotton balls soaked in citranella, smoke bombs & everything else i have ever read or heard about!gave up garden to limit food & damn thing still lives under my shed & has dug numerous holes in yard

  27. Poison is not a humane way to remove the groundhog. How would you like to be poisoned while you slept. We humans are the ones who are overpopulating this planet and just taking more more more land not the animals. Maybe we are the ones who need to be removed and poisoned?

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