Fencing for Woodchucks

William McKay bmckay55 at hotmail.com
Thu Jul 13 07:31:53 EDT 2000

While I am not sure you have more woodchucks in your neck of the woods than 
I do, the solution is the same.

As to fencing, unless you have a small garden, it is probably not cost 
effective to use fencing.  In any case, most woodchucks can defeat most 
fences.  They climb, they dig, and once they get a taste of your vegetables 
it is almost impossible to keep them out.

That leaves eliminating them.  In order to do that, you need to study their 
behavior so that you can use that in your prevention/elimination plan.  
Around here (Eastern Massachusetts), most woodchucks make their burrows 
either just inside the woodline (if you have trees bordering your fields) or 
alongside stone walls.  If you have dumped tree stumps , brush or cut up 
trees somewhere, you can guarantee that this area will become a woodchuck 
condo complex.  They seem to love to dig burrows into the side of an 
incline.  Also, they tend to feed close to home;  rarely will a woodchuck 
travel more than 100 or 200 yards to feed.  In addition, they are very 
consistent.  They tend to use the same routes every day to get to their 
feeding areas and if you look carefully, you can see their trails.

Armed with this information, you begin your prevention plan in the spring 
before the brush & weeds grow.  Walk the edges of your fields in the likely 
burrowing areas and look for their burrows.  They are pretty easy to spot.  
When you find one, (1) mark it.  use a stake with a color tie or a bit of 
spray paint.[the reason you do this is that even if you eliminate the 
current occupant, rest assured later in the year another will move in and 
take up residence;  this way it is easy to find the holes in July]  (2) drop 
a smoke bomb down the hole.  More effective and cheaper than a smoke bomb is 
a rag (an old t shirt or 1/2 towel soaked in gasoline or diesel.  Put it in 
the hole down a foot or so, put it fairly snug but do not stuff it in, light 
it and let it burn for ten or so minutes.  Covering the hole afterwards is 
optional, although not a bad idea.  If you did not kill him, he will dig his 
way out and you will know that.

You will always miss some of them and even if you get all of them, more will 
move in later in the summer.  Around here the kits leave the home burrow 
sometime in late June, early July and set up housekeeping on their own.  
This goes on through July and into August.  When you see signs of them-as in 
munched broccoli, destroyed lettuce, etc then
  1.  check the holes you marked and destroyed int he spring.  Some will 
have set up in these
  2.  Remember, they do not travel far.  If they worked on crops on the east 
side of a field, rest assured they live to the east of that.  Check the 
area.  If you find the holes, repeat the smoke treatment.  If you find their 
trails and leg hold traps are legal where you live, set traps in the runs.
  3.  In June, plant a canary crop in areas where woodchucks have been known 
to live in the past.  For example, grow a few hills of summer squash or set 
out the broccoli transplants that you did not need.  Check these frequently 
and when the woodchucks attack them, go look for them.  If leg hold traps 
were legal in Massachusetts I would stud my canary crops with traps, sort of 
like a woodchuck minefield.  When you catch them in the traps, you can 
either shoot them or if you feel munificent, hold them over a trash barrel, 
open the jaws of the trap and drop them in;  transport them at least five 

The other thing that works well is a big dog.  Coyotes are good too, but not 
all of us are lucky to have a few living close by.

I have never had good luck with have a heart traps, except for the really 
young ones.  Never have caught a full grown one in one of these.  If you do 
decide to use one, apples seem to make fairly good bait.

Poison is out for me.  Too many possibilities of others ingesting it. 
Shooting them is also not very productive (unless they are in a leghold 
trap).  It is pretty hard to weed the field or transplant lettuce while 
carrying a rifle.  Waiting in [ambush is rather time consuming.

Good luck

Bill McKay in E. Massachusetts

I've heard that there are more groundhogs per sq foot here in the
eastern panhandle of West Virginia than anywhere on earth, and it's
easy to believe!!

Trapping and dogs both seem to require knowing where a ground hog is.
This year, their initials hits are so devestating that I just can't
bare any more!

Budget is way low, for the same reason. Can anyone suggested
effective, easy to install groundhog fencing? (I may settle for dog
fencing and keep a dog in the garden full time.)

Your help w.b. v. appreciated.

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