Living With Wildlife

Living With Woodchucks

This page provides problem-solving advice and ways to make your yard less attractive to woodchucks in the first place.

For more information on these mammals, including what they eat and where they live in the forest preserves, visit the main woodchucks page.

 

Dens

The best way to prevent a woodchuck from establishing a den in your yard is to keep it away from attractive areas in the first place. Use welded wire to block access to crawl spaces and areas under decks, sheds, patios and porches.

If a woodchuck has already established a den, try the techniques below, preferably two or three at the same time. After a few days, pack crumpled newspaper into the entrance. If the woodchuck is still there, it will pull the paper out. If the paper stays in place for a few days, repair any openings.

  • Place flashlights, flood lamps, blinking holiday lights or a constantly noisy device such as a radio, alarm clock or toy in the den. Leave them on day and night — or at least at night to disturb the animal’s sleep.
  • Place ammonia-soaked rags in the den for one week. Resoak the rags daily, and pack crumpled newspaper in the entrance to hold in the fumes. Never use ammonia between March and August; it can harm infants too young to escape.

 

How to Make Your Yard Less Attractive

  • Never feed woodchucks.
  • Keep the ground below bird feeders and fruit trees clean.
  • Place inflated beach balls in your yard, and let them blow around to frighten the animals. Scarecrows, plastic bags on sticks and other objects that move in the wind can also work.
  • Install a 4-foot-high wire fence around your garden. Leave the top 12 to 18 inches unsecured and bent outward. If a woodchuck tries to climb the fence, its weight will pull the top down and land the animal back on the ground. Bend the bottom 6 inches out at a 90 degree angle, and bury 1 to 2 inches underground. Woodchucks are good diggers as well as skilled climbers.
  • Plant onions, flowering onions, garlic, fritillaria or tropaeolum around the perimeter of your garden. They have an unpleasant tastes or smells that might keep woodchucks away.
  • Spray plants with a mixture of 1 gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of hot sauce or garlic puree. Reapply after a heavy dew or rain.
  • To prevent woodchucks from climbing a tree to find food, wrap a 4- to 6-foot-wide piece of aluminum flashing around the trunk at least 4 feet off the ground so woodchucks can’t get a foothold on the bark. Leave it up for five to seven days.

 

What You Should Never Do

  • Trapping and removing an animal is not always the solution to the problem. Removing the animal is illegal without the proper permits and only creates an open space for another animal to inhabit. A trapped adult may also leave young behind to die of starvation. Focus on removing the attraction, not the animal.
  • Never move young from a den.
  • Never use poisons. They’re inhumane and may be illegal. They can also result in secondary poisoning of other wild animals or pets.
  • It’s illegal to keep wild animals, even for a short time. They have special nutritional, housing and handling needs, and inexperienced individuals who try to raise or treat them inevitably produce unhealthy, tame animals that can’t survive in the wild.

 

Public Health Concerns

Woodchucks are not a public health concern. It’s rare for them to carry rabies, and there have not been any reports in DuPage County in recent years.