Groundhog, woodchuck, whistle pig, whatever you may call them, are common mammals found in the eastern United States and Canada. They usually don’t cause too much damage or fuss but have the potential to create problems when they burrow or when they find your prized garden. If you’re dealing with a groundhog problem, there are a few scents and smells you can use to deter them.
Groundhogs have a keen sense of smell that helps them stay safe from predators. Since groundhogs have a strong sense of smell, you can use predator urine, putrescent eggs, garlic, black pepper, onion, mustard, hot sauce, geranium oil, and garlic oil to repel them from your property.
Read on to find out what scents you can use to deter groundhogs and how to use these natural scents to keep groundhogs away for good!
Groundhog and Woodchuck: The Same Thing?
Before we get into the scents and smells that repel groundhogs, let’s make sure you’re actually dealing with a groundhog.
Groundhogs are part of the squirrel family and are similar in size and shape to their western cousins, the marmot. The largest groundhog chunks can weigh up to fifteen pounds and reach a length of over two feet.
They’re typically brown in color with dark brown or black feet. Groundhogs are sometimes confused with beavers, prairie dogs, marmots, and badgers. Groundhogs have a few distinguishing features to separate them from these animals, such as their tail shape, solitary nature, and white guard hairs that give them a ‘frosted’ appearance.
Groundhogs are also confused with woodchucks. The good news is, groundhogs and woodchucks are actually the same animals, so there’s no need to confuse the two!
Why Repel Groundhogs?
Evidence of a groundhog in your yard will be pretty obvious. Their burrows are typically ten to twelve inches in diameter, so it would be hard to confuse them with a mouse, rabbit, or other small, burrowing mammal.
With that being said, there are similar-sized animals that also burrow, such as skunks and raccoons. Believe it or not, skunks and raccoons typically use abandoned groundhog burrows for themselves and rarely dig their own burrows. Lazy, right?
So, if you see a large hole in your yard, chances are you have a groundhog. But, just because you have a groundhog doesn’t necessarily mean you have a problem.
Problems only arise when groundhogs begin burrowing near the foundation of your home or if they find their way into your garden.
A single groundhog burrowing under your home usually isn’t a problem. Their burrows can be extensive, up to thirty feet in length, but one burrow system cannot bring down a house.
The biggest problem with groundhogs is when they get into your vegetable gardens or crops. According to the University of New Hampshire, groundhogs love beans, alfalfa, clover, dandelions, peas, broccoli, and tomatoes, among others.
If you have these types of vegetables and plants in your garden, be vigilant! Check for burrows around your garden to determine if groundhogs are to blame or some other critter like rabbits or raccoons.
Those who have cattle and other livestock or horses may be concerned about groundhogs as well. Their burrows can create troublesome footing for hoofed animals, who may get injured accidentally stepping into one of the openings.
Groundhogs always create at least two entrances to their burrow, the second entrance being an emergency entrance or exit. The problem is, this second opening is often hidden or covered to help protect the groundhog.
Cows, horses, and other hoofed animals may not see the hole before it’s too late.
Although groundhogs do a lot of good for the environment, in certain situations, they can become a nuisance and a pest. Let’s check out all the scents and smells they dislike so you can start deterring them today!
9 Scents That Groundhogs Hate (And How To Use Them)
Whether these little bandits have been stealing your garden vegetables or their burrows are getting out of control, you’re ready to do something about it.
We got your back!
We’ll list a few scents that groundhogs can’t stand and how to use them. It’s important to note that scent deterrents will not be as effective as physical deterrents such as fencing. But scent deterrents use natural ingredients that you may already have lying around the house.
They are good options if you are looking for a quick, cost-effective way to repel one or two groundhogs.
One of the great things about groundhogs is that they are solitary animals. If you see one, it does not indicate there is a whole colony around. In fact, it’s more likely that the one groundhog you see is the only one around.
Predator Urine Scares Away Groundhogs
We put predator urine first on our list because it is one of the most effective scents to scare away groundhogs.
Like we mentioned before, groundhogs have a keen sense of smell. But unlike many plant-foraging animals, they use this sense of smell to stay away from predators more than to find food.
Predator urine may sound like a strange deterrent, but it’s an effective and natural deterrent that you can find easily online. According to a study done in New York, coyote urine was found to be incredibly effective at deterring groundhogs/woodchucks.
Additionally, foxes are predators of groundhogs, and fox urine can repel groundhogs as well.
So, where the heck do you find predator urine? Don’t worry; no live animals will be involved on your part! You can often find it at home improvement stores if you would rather go to a brick-and-mortar store.
Alternatively, you can find them online, such as American Heritage Industries Coyote Urine.
To use predator urine to repel groundhogs, be sure to follow all the directions on the label. You’ll use the urine to create a barrier around your garden, spraying the scent liberally around the perimeter.
This appeals to a groundhog’s sense of danger. As soon as it gets a whiff of a possible big predator like a coyote or fox, it’s likely to vacate the area ASAP.
An important note about predator urine: this product has a secondary application for hunters, which is to bait predators like coyotes and foxes closer to their position. So be wary if you have small dogs or cats, as this deterrent may attract the predator to your yard.
If you’re interested, you can read more about the best coyote urines for repelling animals here.
Putrescent Eggs Deter Groundhogs
Even the name sounds like it smells bad. And it does! To groundhogs and other critters, at least. Once this product dries, we humans can’t really smell it, so no need to worry about a rotten egg scent around your garden!
Like predator urine, putrescent eggs also appeal to a groundhog’s sense of danger. While the eggs might smell bad, the more important feature is that rotten eggs often mimic the smell of decaying animals. The smell sends a message to the groundhog that big predators might be nearby and sends them scurrying away.
Putrescent eggs are made with, well, eggs. But more specifically, it’s made with rotten eggs. We all know the smell, and we all know it’s a pretty rad scent, and not in a good way!
There are plenty of commercially available products like I Must Garden Groundhog/Woodchuck Repellent, where the main ingredient is whole eggs. These products are great if you don’t have the time or patience to make your own homemade repellent.
Many repellents today, including the one mentioned above, are safe to use directly on your plants. And once this product dries, you will not be able to smell the ‘rotten egg’ scent.
However, if you’re into homebrews or want to save a little money, you can easily make your own putrescent egg spray at home.
All you need is:
- 3 eggs
- 8 cups water
- Spray bottle (glass works best)
Simple enough, right? Simply whisk the eggs together until they are well combined. Think of the consistency of scrambled egg mix. Once the eggs are good and mixed, add the water.
You can mix it all together in a container or put everything into the spray bottle if it’s big enough. If you have any extra, be sure to store it in the fridge. While we want the eggs to be a little rotten, you don’t want mold growth in your mixture, either.
For the eggs to become putrescent, they will need to rotten up a bit. The good news is, this will happen naturally once you spray your mixture outside. After a few hours of being out in the hot sun, your mixture will begin to sour.
You can add garlic or hot sauce to the mixture if you want to provide additional deterrent effects. If the groundhog has learned that no big predators are around, they may try to taste vegetables and plants sprayed with the repellent.
The hot sauce and garlic will reinforce the message to STAY AWAY.
This is best applied to completely dry plants. You can also spray it on fencing around your garden. Another option is to pound small stakes into the ground and spray the stakes. This method is more of an area repellent as opposed to a taste repellent.
Garlic, Pepper and Hot Sauce Repel Groundhogs
For a lot of us, we love to pile on the garlic, pepper, and hot sauce. But for groundhogs, this isn’t quite as appetizing.
Things like garlic, black pepper, onion, mustard, and hot sauce can be used to deter groundhogs from your yard and garden.
The nice thing about these types of scent deterrents is that they are probably already in your pantry!
You can use them in a variety of ways. For example, black pepper can simply be sprinkled around your garden to deter groundhogs. This may be a bit time-consuming and use a lot of pepper, but the effects should be pretty instantaneous.
For garlic, onions, mustard, or hot sauce, you can make a spray mixture to apply on and around your plants.
To make a homemade scent spray, follow these steps:
- Bring 3 cups water to a boil
- Once boiling, reduce heat
- Add 1 tbsp fresh garlic cloves or minced garlic (for garlic powder, use 1 tsp instead)
- Add 1 tbsp hot sauce or chopped hot peppers
- Add 1 tbsp onions, chopped
- Add 1 tbsp spicy mustard
- Stir until well mixed and turn the heat off
- Let mixture cool completely
- Strain mixture into a glass spray bottle
If you don’t have all four ingredients, it’s okay to skip out on one or two, just as long as you have at least ONE scent deterrent in there. The more variety of scents you use, the more likely it is to deter a groundhog.
Spray around areas you are trying to protect against groundhogs. Try to avoid spraying directly on vegetables or fruits. Instead, spray around the plant or directly on its stems and leaves.
No one wants a tomato that tastes like hot sauce and mustard, right?
Be sure to reapply the spray at least once a week, and especially after heavy rainfall. The rain will wash away the spray pretty easily since all the ingredients are natural.
Geranium Essential Oil
Essential oils are quickly becoming popular for home remedies, aromatherapy, and the treatment of some minor ailments.
Another added benefit of essential oils is their repellent capabilities. A study done by the University of Nebraska identified geranium oil as an effective scent repellent against groundhogs.
You can mix 10-15 drops of something like Mary Tylor Naturals Geranium Essential Oil into a cup of water and place the mixture in a spray bottle. Additionally, garlic essential oil is also effective at repelling groundhogs, as they can’t seem to stand the scent of garlic.
What Do Groundhogs Hate The Most?
With all of this talk about repellent scents, it makes you wonder what groundhogs hate the most? What is the most effective way to repel groundhogs?
The most effective deterrents will be those that are combined with other deterrents. Although all groundhogs look about the same, just like we humans, each groundhog has unique preferences. One may be deterred more by garlic than they are by predator urine, and another groundhog is the complete opposite.
It’s for this reason that you’ll want to use more than one deterrent to really keep these troublesome pests out of your yard and garden.
Have you ever wondered if woodchucks (groundhogs) can actually chuck wood? We wrote an in-depth piece on if a woodchuck can actually chuck wood here.
Using physical deterrents is more effective than scent deterrents, but it’s also more costly. If you decide to use fencing, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Fence Height: To deter groundhogs, your fence should be at least three feet high. Groundhogs can climb, but they’re not the most graceful. Three feet should be enough to deter them. You can bend the top foot of fencing outward to make it more effective.
Mesh Width: Although groundhogs are pretty rotund, their younglings are much smaller and can fit through smaller fencing. Make sure the mesh has an opening no larger than 2 inches X 2 inches.
Fence Depth: As we mentioned before, groundhogs like to dig. They won’t hesitate to burrow under a fence. Make sure to bury it a foot beneath the soil and bend the last three inches out into an ‘L’ shape for maximum effectiveness.
Frightening devices are less effective on groundhogs than other critters, but they do still work and are great to pair with other deterrents. This method appeals to a groundhog’s sense of danger.
Anecdotal evidence points to one of the strangest frightening devices. Fill clear jars with clear water and place them periodically around your garden. The groundhogs will see a distorted reflection of themselves in the jar, which could trick them into thinking another animal is in the garden.
Another tactic is to use predator decoys. The Gold Solar Powered Owl is a great addition to any fence or scent deterrent. As the name suggests, it’s solar-powered. The owl also has eyes that light up, and it emits a hooting noise when motion is detected. Hawk decoys are another option.
That’s A Wrap!
Now that you’re packed full of groundhog deterrent information, you should have a small arsenal of ideas to repel these pesky critters.
As always, the best way to deter any pest is to combine several different deterrents. Try combining scent deterrents with physical or auditory deterrents.
To recap, here are 9 scents that groundhogs hate:
- Coyote Urine
- Fox Urine
- Putrescent Eggs
- Black Pepper
- Spicy Mustard
- Hot Sauce
- Essential Oils like Geranium and Garlic
You can also use physical deterrents like fencing as well as scare tactics.
If you’re unsure about your groundhog problem or if you don’t think you can handle it on your own, get help from a professional! Our nationwide pest control finder can get you in contact with a wildlife pro for free. Using our partner network helps support Pest Pointers, so thanks!
Bean, N. J., Korff, W. L., & Mason, J. R. (1995, August). Repellency of plant, natural products, and predator odors to woodchucks. In National Wildlife Research Center Repellents Conference 1995 (p. 4).
Table 9. Commercial Wildlife Repellents. (n.d.). In Nuisance Wildlife Repellent Handbook (p. 17). Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.352.5547&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Harper, C. A., & Deck, A. L. (2012, September 2). PB1624 Managing Nuisance Animals and Associated Damage around the Home. Wildlife and Fisheries, 6-7. https://trace.tennessee.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1014&context=utk_agexfish
Pustilnik, J. D., Searle, J. B., & Curtis, P. D. (2021). The effects of red fox scent on winter activity patterns of suburban wildlife: evaluating predator-prey interactions and the importance of groundhog burrows in promoting biodiversity. Urban Ecosystems, 24(3), 529-547.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
Download My Free E-Book!
Take a look at my guide on Pest Proofing Your Home In Under a Day! I get into the nitty-gritty on the most common types of pests you’ll see on your property including BOTH insects and wildlife, along with the specific signs to look for regarding any pest you have questions about.