Woodchucks Situations & Solutions
To the dismay of gardeners, woodchucks love fresh vegetables, especially broccoli, peas, beans, carrot tops, lettuce, and squash. Common flower garden targets include asters, daisies, lilies, marigolds, pansies, phlox, snapdragons and sunflowers. Some homeowners find the burrowing holes woodchucks dig in the lawn a nuisance. Additionally, woodchucks often conceal their entrance hole by placing it under a building.
Fortunately, there are several non-lethal ways to deter these animals.
Woodchucks in the Garden
Fencing offers the only viable way to protect plants from woodchucks. Ideally, you want to install fencing before the woodchuck gets a taste of any produce, as this will lessen the animal’s determination to get through the barrier.
Because woodchucks can burrow under and climb over fencing, you’ll need to install your fence with one of the following methods:
Purchase chicken wire that’s at least 6 feet high. As you install the wire around the perimeter (with the help of 5-foot posts), be sure to bury the wire at least 10 inches in the ground. At the top of the wire, leave 12 inches unattached from your posts, and bend the fencing outwards, so that the woodchuck can’t get a good grip to climb over it.
You can also place 3-foot-wide chicken wire flat on the ground around the perimeter of the garden. After you’ve installed this ground wire, secure a 4- to 6-foot high vertical fence that’s 6 inches from the edge closest to the garden (see figure).
As shown in the diagram (click image for larger version), there will be 2½ feet of chicken wire on the outside of the vertical fence and 6 inches on the side closest to the garden. Leave the top 12 inches of the vertical fence unsecured and bent outward, away from garden.
The woodchuck won’t be able to dig under the vertical fence because of the chicken wire underneath.
Options Beyond Fencing
If proper fencing isn’t possible, you have a few more options, but these are by no means guaranteed.
- You can try planting species that repel woodchucks, such as gopher plant (Euphorbia lathyrus) or crown imperial fritillary (F. imperialis) around the garden.
- Repeated treatments of planted areas with various repellents, such as fox or coyote urine, diluted Tabasco sauce or red pepper flakes, or scattered human hair are other reported deterrents.
- Allowing a pet dog access to the planted area may also help deter woodchuck visits.
- Constructing a visibility barrier, such as a three-foot black plastic wall, before any woodchucks identify the area as a foraging ground, may also prove effective.
Woodchuck Hole Hazards
Don’t interfere with woodchuck burrows until after the young are capable of leaving (approximately July 1.) If woodchuck holes in walkways present a potential hazard to people, pets or farm animals, flag them with something visible (traffic cone, a red flag) to alert others.
Once the young are able to leave, locate all the holes and stuff all but one with rags soaked in olive oil. As the olive oil becomes rancid, it will give off an odor repugnant to the woodchucks and they will relocate. Of course, there’s no guarantee that they will leave the property; they may just move to another location in the same yard.
Woodchucks Under Buildings
Woodchucks often conceal their entrance hole by placing it under a rock, in a thicket, or, in many cases, under a building. Rarely do these holes affect the structure of the building. You can close these entrance holes with wood, concrete, or hardware cloth (half-inch wire mesh aluminum screening).
To prevent the woodchucks from burrowing, dig a 1’ x 1’ foot trench around the base of the structure. Then nail the fencing to the bottom of the building, leaving enough at the bottom to bury underground (see diagram 1).
You might also try sliding a 3-foot wide chicken wire under the building about six inches (see diagram 2). When placed around all sides of the building, this fencing prevents the woodchuck from gaining access by digging. If the base of the building is more than 4 inches above the ground, also place vertical fencing around the building.
Woodchucks & Rabies
Good judgment will help eliminate the chances of people and wildlife coming in close contact with each other Woodchucks, like all mammals, can carry rabies.
Woodchucks & the Law
Relocating wildlife is illegal in Massachusetts. It is detrimental to the well-being of wildlife as well as the public.