Our top secret groundhog repellent

groundhog by Gilles Gonthier on Flickr

I have finally found an effective groundhog repellent. It is readily available, costs nothing and doubles as an effective organic fertilizer. It even pushes forward our mandate to reduce and reuse. Just do not tell the neighbours.

My daughter, Marian, has unusual insight into the way animals think. While visiting, she suggested rolling on the ground: “Leave your scent.” Groundhogs are particularly shy and avoid humans whenever possible.

One morning after Marian was here I went into the garden and found devastation. A groundhog had attacked the acorn squash, borage and even a tomato plant. These were not polite rabbits nibbling. Whole branches of borage were broken to the ground. The squash and tomato had been all but killed. My previous strategies had come to naught. The other seven tomato plants looked like a row of decoys.

Necessity is the mother of invention. Squatting there in the cool grass I seethed hot with determination. Insight came in a flash. I knew what had to be done. I went in the house and told my partner. He found a large plastic jar for us to keep on the bathroom sink. Over the course of the day we collected groundhog repellent. Under cover of dusk I snuck out to the garden and dribbled it around the perimeter. No groundhogs visited the garden that night. In fact, they have not returned. Neither have the rabbits.

Human urine works. But only from adult males, my cousin has since informed me. Ladies, conscript your husbands, sons, brothers, nephews and uncles.

It also has a fertilizer value of 18:2:5. It has been demonstrated as an effective replacement for traditional chemical fertilizers. I usually pour it in the trenches around the outside of the the garden, away from plant leaves. It needs to be replaced frequently, especially after rain. The smell will hardly be detectable to people, but repugnant to the sensitive nose of a groundhog. A healthy urinary tract contains no harmful bacteria. However, samples from people with infections should not be used.

We flush our toilet less often, reducing the amount of nitrogen going into the water supply. This fits nicely with the sixth principle of permaculture: “By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.”

My discovery is not original. It turns out others have thought of it before and use it effectively. That just proves it is a good idea.

Alternatively, coyote urine available at garden centres will also do the trick. I’m happier reusing a free product. It may also help deter rabbits and deer. I also learned groundhogs and skunks can be persuaded to vacate the premises by sprinkling urine around their dens, but this is only useful for small populations in urban settings.

This article was first posted on July 12, 2012 and as of today it is the most popular post on my blog by far. Here it has been slightly updated.

Groundhog photo courtesy of Gilles Gonthier.

24 thoughts on “Our top secret groundhog repellent

  1. Lordy, lordy, thank you dear Van! We are going to to start doing this. We have a terrible problem with groundhogs also. We have tried deer sonar noise, human hair, homemade garlic, onion & pepper spray, but they keep on coming back to reap the benefits of our hard work.

    1. Good luck, Linda. If you have a big problem, I also read that using it around the entrances to their burrows will encourage them to move elsewhere! Young groundhogs should be moving out of their dens by now, so it’s a good time.

  2. I wonder if this would work with the burrowing/tunneling gophers & moles that we have in the southern USA… it’s sure worth a try! The ones that leave large dirtpile ‘exit’ mounds are ruining the lawn since weed seeds land in that nice fresh dirt & turn a smooth-ish yard into a lumpy one.

    1. Moles used to burrow under the lawn where I grew up, but I haven’t seen any in year. If you try it, let us know whether you have any success.

  3. I read this with great interest. We’ve had a lot of groundhog damage this year at our community garden. Groundhogs also prevent us from growing flowering cabbage and kale in our front yard. (They also ate cucumber plants we were trying to grow in a pot.) We’ve had the front yard problem for many years. At home, I have a concern about making our front yard smell like – well, a toilet. I don’t think there would be a problem at the community garden. I talked to my husband tonight but he isn’t buying into it. Still, it can’t hurt. I’ll try to convince him.

    1. I’ve noticed groundhogs are particularly fond of anything in the cabbage family. In one garden I had long ago, they left everything else alone after I gave up trying to grow broccoli and Brussels sprouts. I don’t think you will notice the smell. Consider that lots of people’s dogs pee outside all the time without raising a stink. The only time I’ve caught a whiff is when I’m down on hands and knees picking cucumber beetles, but my nose is less sensitive than some. Good luck!

      1. Well, well, well, your top secret groundhog repellent has done the trick so far. I filled 2 quart jars of the formula and put it around the back of our 75′ garden, (we have wetlands in back), and so far for 2 days now, no sign of the groundhogs we thought were so cute to look at in the yard! Thank you

        1. Hurray! It’s such a nice change to walk into the garden in the morning not worrying about wha is gone this time.

          1. Does the remedy require any water dilution?? Can it be sprinkle on plants leaves if diluted? Can it still work well if diluted.

          2. It won’t work if you dilute it. Don’t put urine on the plants – it will burn them. Put it on the ground nearby.

  4. I’ve tried human urine! I thought it was a genius idea – and now I see that you, too, are a “genius”! We had two cute woodchucks at one place but they started eating my flowers. And they also decided to have one of their tunnel exits come out right near our back door. My son and a friend – during a night of beer drinking – were asked to make a “donation” We never saw them again near the back door. And those particular woodchucks never went back to eat my flowers after I sprayed them with cayenne pepper water (another idea I thought no one else knew about!). This particular woodchuck I have now is a big pain. He moved out last summer when Mrs. Shunk moved him. But she’s gone now – and he’s back… I’m going to try my Have a Heart trap again, although he wouldn’t even go near it last year. However, I got one very annoyed and angry oppusum.

    1. Cayenne pepper water is another good idea. The groundhog is back in our garden this spring, so it’s time to get our defenses in place again. Thanks for visiting and commenting, Cecile.

  5. I’m scoping out groundhog remedies. Just moved here and in the process of building hugel beds for next year, but in the meantime I planted some fall greens. Today I found that Chuck, after ignoring them for weeks, had for some reason totally destroyed my kale, collards and parsley.

    A lot of people recommend human urine, and I’m glad to see you confirm it once again. I think I’ll go for redundancy with some blood meal, used cat litter, hot pepper spray &c as well.

    Anyway, all this is just a preface to my main point: You mentioned the fertilizer value of urine, but it’s even better if you mix it with wood ash from the fireplace, stove or grill. Urine plus ashes together make a perfect N-P-K blend plus god knows what kinds of excreted trace elements in the urine. Dilute it 10-1 and you can pour it straight on the plants — organic miracle-gro!

    1. Please if mix wood ash with urine and diluted with water will it still act groudhol or other animal repellant?

      1. I’m not sure. I’d pour some urine separately as a groundhod deterrent, in addition to the fertilizer, to be sure.

  6. Also read that used cat litter is a deterrent. Gonna try it in the woodchuck hole I just found.

  7. Our groundhogs ate all of my tomato seedings. They are now starting on the broccoli.

    How often do you have to apply the urine? Once a week? Twice a week?

    1. Apply it as often as you can, every other day if possible, at least twice a week. Apply it immediately after any rain.

  8. Works for repelling gophers too. I don’t agree that it’s just men’s urine. That’s not my experience. I think that idea may come from the socially acceptable practice of men peeing outside, so men’s pee might be more accessible and not even need collecting, so to speak.

  9. I effectively removed them from their dens in my yard by pouring used cat litter in the holes. They moved out of my yard quickly.

  10. I discovered this on my own, as the author suggests. In fact, I used the “other human waste” for a time as well, but that is a more messy affair. I have found this an effective technique, but as stated you must apply it regularly – especially in the spring.

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