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How To Get Rid Of Groundhogs, Woodchucks and Voles

Updated on November 28, 2016
Groundhogs are cute - until they clean out your veggie patch
Groundhogs are cute - until they clean out your veggie patch | Source

Groundhog and Woodchuck Control

Groundhogs and woodchucks may look cuddly and cute -- until one moves into your yard and starts eating all of your prized garden plants. They can wipe out a veggie garden in an afternoon and devour a planting bed of perennials in no time.

Groundhog and woodchuck are common names for the same animal, and they have voracious appetites for garden plants. They are very destructive, excavating large quantities of soil with their burrows and feasting on tender (and expensive) annuals and perennials with their insatiable appetites for anything green.

Groundhogs can devastate a garden very quickly. In the wild, they eat grasses, clover and dandelions. In your garden, they eat freshly planted annuals and returning perennials, hostas, and just about every leafy herb and vegetable in the veggie patch. Groundhog burrows are large and deep, and dug with at least two exits. They move a lot of dirt in the excavation process, making it easy to find and identify the entrance to a groundhog burrow.

How to Get Rid of Groundhogs

Prevent the Groundhogs from Moving In

Every spring, woodchucks emerge from their burrows and begin the search for fresh green plants. And every spring brings new unwelcome visitors from the surrounding fields and woodlands into our gardens. Though we encourage wildlife to visit and take up residence on our property, groundhogs are very destructive and quickly wear out their welcome.

Fences are an effective barrier, but hungry groundhogs can climb over or burrow under the average garden fence to reach the plants on the other side. Individual or small grouping of plants can be protected effectively with chicken wire or garden fencing, rolled into a cylinder to surround the plants and pressed at least 12 inches deep into the ground.

Use chicken wire or garden fencing to surround vegetable gardens. Fencing needs to be at least 4 feet high, with the bottom edges of the fence buried at least a foot below ground level and flared out and away to prevent the groundhogs from digging under the fence. Even so, a determined groundhog can easily climb a 6 foot high garden fence.

Woodchucks look cuddly and cute -- until one starts eating all of your prized plants!

Keep the Yard Open and Clean

Groundhogs are timid creatures, and they do not like open spaces - probably because they are on the menu of just about every predator including hawks, coyotes, fox and the neighborhood dogs - and they seldom stray far from the safety of their burrows. In backyards and gardens, groundhogs tend to dig their burrows under the shelter of a deck, shed or porch.

Eliminating the areas where they can hide safely from predators or dig their burrow can significantly reduce the chances of a groundhog from moving in. Use lattice or other physical barriers to block off access and stop groundhogs from getting underneath sheds and porches, and move brush piles away from your garden and planting areas.

Scarecrow Water Spraying Animal Repeller

Frighten Them Away

There are several commercial products, home remedies and mechanical devices to discourage groundhogs from feasting on your plants. Bottled predator urine and ammonia soaked rags offer some protection, as can spreading Epsom salts and moth balls around planting bed, though each solution must be reapplied often to remain effective (especially after rain storms, which wash away the scents that deter the groundhogs from the area).

Motion detecting devices used for repelling deer are also very effective against groundhogs. Motion-activated sprinklers are especially effective, harmlessly spraying water at any groundhog that wanders into it's path. Anything that produces motion can help to frighten away skittish animals, such old CD's hanging and flashing in a sunlight breeze, as well as wind chimes or the action of a whirly-gig put in motion by a gentle breeze.

Ultrasonic devices use sound technology to clear the area of rodents and other uninvited animal guests, without using chemicals and without harming the little critters. Many of these commercial products use motion sensors to detect the presence of pests, and then blasting the intruder with a burst of ultrasonic sound.

Evict Them

Live trapping is the most effective method of groundhog control. Groundhogs are easily captured in live traps, which are essentially wire cages with a moving door that is triggered by a trip tray. Live traps can be purchased or rented; Havahart is a popular brand that makes several types and sizes of live traps.

Set the live trap near a groundhog burrow and then bait it with fresh broccoli or apple slices. The animal is captured when it enters the trap for the bait, steps on the trigger plate and releases the door. Relocate the captured critter at least five miles away to discourage it from returning.

Professional Wildlife Control companies offer trapping and removal services, and are familiar with local regulations for removing and relocating groundhogs. In most states, the Department of Environmental Protection web site offers a listing of licensed wildlife control specialists.

The Last Resort

When all other means of controlling groundhogs fail, cartridges of a poisonous gas mixture especially formulated for groundhog control are available online or at feed and seed stores.This measure of lethal control must be used with extreme caution, and is best reserved for use by commercial farmers with large fields of crops to protect.

Groundhog burrows are often home to other animals including box turtles, snakes and toads. Used indiscriminately, this form of control is lethal to all of the inhabitants in the burrow.

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Groundhog Facts: Did You Know?

  • Groundhogs are large rodents that can grow up to 30 inches long and weigh over pounds. They can live up to six years in the wild.
  • Expert excavators, groundhogs remove large amounts of soil as they dig into the ground. Their burrows have multiple entrances and exits to help escape predators.
  • Groundhogs are try hibernators, entering their burrows in late fall.
  • Mating season for groundhogs begins as soon as they emerge from hibernation in late March or early April.
  • The average litter produces two to six pups. Born blind and hairless, the pups grow quickly and are ready to leave the burrow in about six weeks.
  • Groundhogs primarily eat grasses and other vegetation. Their fondness for vegetables and their voracious appetites put them in conflict with gardeners.
  • Groundhogs and woodchucks are the same animal. In some areas, they are also called whistle pigs and land beavers.


Groundhog Range Map

How To Control Voles

Vole Control: Tips For Controlling Voles in the Garden

Voles can devastate hostas and other garden plants
Voles can devastate hostas and other garden plants | Source

How To Get Rid Of Voles

Voles are tiny mice-like creatures with short tails and a voracious appetites for plants - especially the roots and tender leaves of perennials such as hostas. They will also gnaw on the bark and roots of small fruit trees. Also known as meadow mice, voles can be found in gardens all across the US. These destructive pests are active year round.

Voles live in small underground burrows, dug near the base of overhanging plants, under shrubs and bushes, and around roots of trees. Their burrows are small, about the size of a quarter, and they can be hard to find under the foliage and camouflaged by garden mulch. They dig the entrances to their burrows at the base of the plants that they like to eat and unlike a mole, voles do not leave a mound of excavated soil around the entrance.

There are several different methods, home remedies and commercial products for controlling voles, and deterring them from ravishing your garden. Though none are 100% effective, the following tips will help reduce the damage to your prized plants.

Combining several of the strategies will further increase the effectiveness of keeping voles from eating their way through your garden.

A Vole ate this hosta plant!
A Vole ate this hosta plant! | Source

These Little Rodents Terrorize Garden Plants

Voles dig little burrows right at the base of tender plants, such as this recently devoured hosta plant. With their voracious appetites, they can consume a full-sized hosta in just a few days before moving on to the next tasty plant.

They attack the plant from their underground burrow, chewing on the roots, and I have watched in horror as a vole attacked a hosta frond from below, detaching the leaf from the base of the plant and pulling it down into their hole.

Voles reproduce quickly and in gardens without an abundance of natural predators, their numbers can increase quickly and dramatically. Repellents and other non-lethal deterrents can be effective, though in some cases, a higher level of control is needed to keep a large population of voles in check.

Organic Vole Control - Hot Peppers
Organic Vole Control - Hot Peppers | Source

Turn Up the Heat!

Try a Natural Deterrent: Hot Pepper Flakes

Locate the entrance to a vole's burrow near the base of a damaged plant, and sprinkle red pepper flakes in and around the entrance hole. Spreading a tablespoon or two of the hot pepper flake powder in and around the entrance to the burrow, then pressing the pepper flakes down into the soil with your boot, is usually enough to deter any further damage -- at least for a while.

Repeat the application of red pepper flakes every few days, especially after a soaking rain shower.

This cup of pepper flakes are the leftovers from last year's harvest of cayenne, chili and cherry peppers. After allowing the peppers to dry out thoroughly, the peppers are gently crushed and stored in an airtight container.

Install Barriers to Protect Plants

To protect individual and small groups of plants, burying a wire mesh around the plants can deter a hungry vole. Wire mesh with small openings works best; bury the wire mesh at least six inches below ground level, with the bottom flared out and away from the plants.

A layer of gravel spread around the base of plants can also help prevent a vole from digging down into the garden.

Individual plants can also be planted inside of a plastic nursery pot. The pots used for transporting nursery plants are sturdy, inexpensive and readily available. Simply cut the bottom out of a plastic pot and bury it into the garden, leaving about an inch exposed above ground level. Fill the pot with soil and then place the plant inside. Use a pot that is large enough to allow at least a year of potential growth, and then disguise the edges of the pot with covering of mulch.

Snap Traps are effective vole deterrents
Snap Traps are effective vole deterrents | Source

Live Traps for Voles and Small Rodents

The Last Lines of Defense

Trap 'em Out

The traditional wooden snap traps commonly used to catch mice are also very effective for trapping and killing voles. While obviously lethal, snap traps are inexpensive and arguably as humane a method for controlling voles as using poisonous baits or glue traps.

Position a baited snap trap near the entrance of burrows. Use a mixture of peanut butter and oatmeal for bait, pressing the mixture firmly into the trip plate, and then place the trigger end of the trap at the entrance to the burrow.

Cover the snap trap with an inverted flowerpot to keep pets and other animals away from the baited trap. Check the traps daily, always wear gloves when handling the traps, and dispose of the remains properly.

Have You Ever Seen A Vole?

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Vole Control: An Organic Solution - NHHostas.com Grower, Richard Merritt

Tell Us About Your Woodchuck Woes and Vole Problems

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    • Kappygirl profile image

      Kappygirl 2 years ago

      A friend of mine has had a terrible groundhog problem at her home garden. I'm going to share these tips with her. Good article!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 3 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      We really have a horrible time with groundhogs and they are big, too. Some look like bear cubs. I think we have tried all these tricks. Our grandson has caught several in a trap.

    • Grasmere Sue profile image

      Sue Dixon 4 years ago from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK

      Very practical and helpful. We don't have groundhogs here, but deer and mice can devastate our garden.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      I was surprised that groundhogs often move upwards during very wet periods but return to the lower grounds during dryer periods. Figured this out when our gopher problem suddenly went away on it's own.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 4 years ago

      I never knew Groundhogs ate my plants, they sure don't eat the dandelions and clover, think they are spoiled? And I always blamed the deer!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      I've been fortunate in not having issues with groundhogs or voles. I've never seen one on my property. Of course, that may change as I get more heavily into gardening. I'm all for humane approaches to controlling critters. Thank you for providing so many great options.

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 5 years ago

      Thanks for the helpful information. I use chicken fencing (1-inch hex) to keep out the groundhogs - four feet tall with a 2 or 3 foot section laid horizontally on the ground. They go to the spot where the horizontal section and vertical fencing meet and try to dig there with no effect. I leave the chicken fencing kind of loose and wobbly so they aren't able to climb it. Been working so far - about 4 years now.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      A neighbor tipped me off to a human way of controlling gophers which is whirly gigs. Gophers are indeed timid creatures and do not like a lot of noise or vibration. The solar powered vibrating mole sticks are great as well but I prefer whirly gigs as they also make your garden look so fun. Lol...I did not mind the critters being pests because I kind of figured that I moved onto their territory. We had deer, wild turkey, gophers, and chipmunks all taking a share of the loot. At night the raccoons would come raid the compost.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      Hey there! I had honestly never heard of voles ... they must surely be akin to moles? Kind of looks similar. We've got the mole or vole chomping up the backyard ... and creating many mounds of dirt. Any way to tell how many, or is it one voracious vole/mole?

    • sbendall lm profile image

      sbendall lm 5 years ago

      I hate the vole in my yard. I think I am going to have to put out some traps soon.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Yup, cuddly and cute goes out the door when these guys move into your yard. Speaking of using snap traps for the voles, I think they really are much more humane than the sticky traps or using poison. Very well done and thank you for sharing your tried and true secrets.

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