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Are Groundhogs Dangerous? (The Truth)

One of the common rodents found in the United States is groundhogs. These rodents are often associated with spring, and can quickly become a problem if they make their way to your property.

Are groundhogs dangerous?

Groundhogs are mostly harmless North American ground squirrels. They will typically run for the hills (or their burrow rather) when they see a human or pet coming too close. The way the word “dangerous” is normally used, no, groundhogs are not dangerous. They aren’t going to attack you unprovoked. 

Having said that, there are some instances where they can be dangerous to people, pets, and property. However, steering clear of these animals when you see them in the wild is the best way to avoid any harm. They are going to do the same anyway.

These creatures are highly unlikely to attack unless they are bothered, or perhaps feel their young are in danger. Even if they are not outright harmful to people all the time, they can certainly be damaging to property and certain crops.

What Are Groundhogs

Groundhog laying on grass
Groundhog laying on grass by Kristie from Pixabay

Groundhogs are a large North American rodent, also called woodchucks. A few other common names that this animal has been called are Canada marmots, whistle pigs, and thickwood badgers.

These rodents can be found across the entire United States, but they hibernate during the winter so they are unlikely to be spotted during this time. Groundhogs are similar in size to beavers, with brown fur and thick teeth.

They are sometimes confused for beavers, but are actually quite different. Groundhogs can reach up to fifteen pounds, and in many areas they are considered a nuisance.

Despite this, groundhogs are an important part of the food chain in the regions where they live. Common predators of these rodents are coyotes, hawks, foxes, and owls.

Active Times

Since groundhogs hibernate during the winter they do not cause many problems during this season. They will be underground in their burrows and don’t emerge until spring comes back around.

They will be most active in the spring and summer, which is also when they will cause the most damage. Even though they are technically diurnal, groundhogs will spend the middle of the day in their burrows to stay cool, but are active during the morning and evening when it is not as hot.

Groundhogs go into hibernation around the middle of October, and they can typically be seen emerging in March. Before these rodents hibernate, they need to bulk up. If they don’t weigh at least seven pounds they are not likely to survive the winter.

Ways Groundhogs Could Be Considered Dangerous

While groundhogs are not outright dangerous on their own, they can spread a number of diseases, and can cause a lot of damage in yards and gardens. It is rare that these rodents will attack people, but they will if threatened. This is most likely to happen when a mother is protecting her young.

1. Spreading Disease

The main way that groundhogs are a danger to humans is with the diseases they spread. Bites from these rodents can spread rabies to people and animals, and this is fatal.

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Since groundhogs often have ticks on them, they can also transmit Lyme disease and the Powassan virus. The Powassan virus is spread through the groundhog tick that is typically found on this rodent.

This virus can be severe, with multiple uncomfortable symptoms. Symptoms of the Powassan virus include confusion, loss of coordination, vomiting, weakness, and fever. Many diseases spread by groundhogs can be transmitted to pets, as well.

2. Property and Crop Damage

In many regions groundhogs are a pest animal because of the damage they cause to gardens, lawns, and crops. They find grassy areas to burrow in, and will destroy a garden.

It is also pretty hard to get rid of this rodent once it has turned your property into its home. The burrowing they do can even cause structural damage if they are too close to any buildings or structures.

One of the things that makes this animal such a nuisance is how hard they are to get rid of.  It often requires the help of pest control experts, but less severe infestations can sometimes be handled with a few do it yourself options.

Removing Groundhogs

You should always be careful when removing groundhogs, and you shouldn’t handle them. If you plan to remove them yourself you should have the proper equipment to keep from injuring yourself or the animal. It is also considered inhumane to remove female groundhogs if she still has babies, as they will quickly die without her.

Closing Burrows

If you find the groundhogs burrow empty then you can close them up with dirt or gravel to prevent the rodents from coming back. If you do see groundhogs inside, you can try to harass them out and then fill the burrow.

They will then find somewhere else to build shelter. You can get the groundhogs to leave by putting dirty kitty litter near the burrow entrance, or partially digging it out.

When To Do This

Try to do this when the burrow is empty so you don’t have to disturb the groundhogs. You can wait a few days and watch for activity before filling in the burrow, or even put out a wildlife camera to see if any of these rodents are coming and going. If you can’t get them to come out, never seal them inside as that would also be inhumane.

Preventing Groundhogs

The best way to deal with groundhogs is by preventing them completely. You can do this by modifying your yard to make it less appealing, putting up certain types of fences, or using tools to scare them away.

Fences have to be at least four feet high and should be wobbly at the top, or the groundhogs can climb over them. Suspended beach balls can also be a good device for scaring these rodents away from your yard. Keeping grass cut law will also make it more difficult for groundhogs to invade your property.

Conclusion

Groundhogs alone might not be that dangerous, but the diseases they spread can be fatal to people and pets, not to mention the major property damage they can cause.

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