Woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, are found throughout much of Ontario. They prefer open areas such as fields, clearings, open forests, and rocky slopes. They generally dig their burrows in areas where grasses and other short-growing plants provide food. They tend to avoid damp or swampy areas.
Woodchucks are the major hole-digging mammal in Ontario. All sorts of animals are able to thrive because of the shelter supplied by woodchuck holes including skunks, raccoons, foxes, rabbits and snakes.
Woodchucks prefer to eat fresh green vegetation. They eat a wide variety of wild plants, clover and alfalfa, and garden vegetables if they can get them. On rare occasions they eat snails, insects, or young birds that they come across. Early in spring they eat bark and small branches.
Young woodchucks are born in May. Only one litter, usually with four young, is born each year.
The main woodchuck predators are foxes, coyotes and dogs.
Woodchucks may eat vegetation from gardens and shrubs. Their holes may create concerns for landowners.
Please keep in mind…
Wild animals have the same basic needs as humans – food, water and shelter. Sometimes, humans and wild creatures come into conflict when animals are trying to meet their basic needs. Often, conflicts can be prevented if we're willing to make small changes to how we think and act.
People and wild animals live side by side in Ontario. We all share responsibility for preventing and handling human-wildlife conflicts. If you must take action against wildlife, please consider all your options and follow all relevant laws and regulations.
Conflicts with Woodchucks
How Can I Prevent Conflicts?
Limit food sources
- Pick fruit as soon as it ripens.
- Keep bird feeders and the areas around them clean.
- Plant flowers that are less attractive to groundhogs such as marigolds, snapdragons, sweet alyssum and annual poppies.
- Put up barriers (plastic tubes, one gallon plant containers) to protect aboveground parts of small plants.
Make your property unwelcoming
- Gardens and other small areas may be protected from woodchucks by erecting a fence of five centimetre mesh wire.
- A two-wire electric fence can also be effective.
- Visit your garden frequently; groundhogs are not comfortable around humans and will leave.
- Use motion-activated lights, sprinklers and noise makers to startle approaching groundhogs.
- Set up decorations and materials that will blow in the wind or shimmer in the sunlight.
- Wire baskets can be used to protect the roots of individual trees and shrubs.
How Can I Handle a Conflict?
If a woodchuck is living on your property
- For homeowners and gardeners, woodchucks may be only an occasional (or seasonal) problem in lawns and garden beds, and not a long-term problem or threat.
- If necessary, evict groundhogs in late summer after the young have been weaned and are living independently.
- Install a one-way door at the main entrance of a burrow, allowing groundhogs to safely leave but not return.
- Place urine-soaked kitty litter clumps near the burrow entrance – the scent is strong and discourages groundhogs from returning.
- Permanently fill in the hole only after you are sure the burrow is unoccupied.
- Groundhogs often return to the same burrow year after year. Install heavy gauge mesh over the hole to prevent return.
Lethal action is a last resort
- A landowner may humanely kill or trap woodchucks that are damaging or about to damage their property. Firearm regulations and bylaws must be followed.
- You may also hire an agent to act on your behalf.
For more information and assistance…
To locate a local wildlife control agent…
• Speak with your neighbours, family, and friends. Look for "animal control" in your phone book or online.
For information on woodchucks…
• Call your local Ministry of Natural Resources office or the Natural Resources Information Centre at 1-800-667-1940.
• Check out Hinterland Who's Who
For information on how to prevent conflicts with woodchucks…
• Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PDF, 119 KB)
Return to Living with Wildlife - Species Fact Sheets list.