You might get anxious when you notice a groundhog on the outside of your garden fence eyeballing your fledgling veggies and deciding which of them it´s going to eat first. Know that it’s quite common for homeowners to see a groundhog climbing a fence or a tree in their yard.
Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are a species of marmot, which is a type of large ground squirrel. These wild animals prefer to hide in their underground burrows, but can become skilled climbers if necessary.
They are herbivores and typically, they are seen searching for food on the ground. They may be tempted to eat your lawn grass as well as plants, assorted fruits and vegetables, and the bark of your ornamental trees.
But in general, when you spot a groundhog climbing in your yard, it means one of two things.
Groundhogs are fully capable of climbing trees, fences, walls, or other surfaces thanks to their sharp claws. They will climb if they need to. Even though they climb tree branches primarily to escape predators, they can sometimes be seen climbing to pick fruit from trees in the yard.
Once they invade your yard, groundhogs can be destructive. They will cause a lot of trouble for homeowners as they do costly damage to gardens, lawns, fences, irrigation systems, unprotected underground cabling, electrical wires, and house foundations.
Unfortunately, these animals are hard to get rid of and usually require the assistance of an experienced wildlife control professional.
If you have spotted a groundhog climbing in your yard and want to learn more about its climbing habit, keep reading!
Can A Groundhog Actually Climb?
A groundhog has a stocky body with a short tail, and a broad head with small, erect ears. These rodents are known to weigh somewhere between 6.5 to 11 pounds, where the male’s body is normally a bit heavier than the female’s.
Their legs are short and what could be called “stubby” in proportion to the torso, while the fingers and toes have strong claws that are very useful for digging in the ground. Also, because of their strong claws, groundhogs are equally adept at climbing up pillars, poles, and walls.
In fact, for being such plump and dumpy creatures, they are surprisingly agile and athletic.
Typically, they are slow, waddling creatures, and tend to stay close to the safety of their dens. However, when frightened, a groundhog can run as fast as a human. This wildlife is able to climb rather well, and can sometimes be seen feeding while perched in the lower parts of trees and shrubs.
Do Groundhogs Climb Trees And Fences?
Groundhogs are accomplished tree climbers, much like normal ground squirrels. It is common to see a groundhog 10 feet above the ground among the trees, gorging itself on the leaves.
Groundhogs are able to climb over a fence made of nearly any material. They will jump a short fence and tunnel under other fences.
They use their strong claws to quickly elude predators. Some of the predators that pose a threat to groundhogs include coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and many other large and medium-sized mammals. They will easily scare and chase the poor groundhog up the tree. The groundhog will stay away from your dog as well and will sometimes run up the tree.
What Kind Of Fencing Will Keep Groundhogs Out Of Your Yard?
Building a fence is often easier said than done, but it is necessary to fence the groundhogs out. In some regions, groundhogs have become worse intruders than deer, and it will take installing an above-average fence to stop them from invading your property.
You should note that groundhogs are capable of jumping over or burrowing under an ordinary fence. A stand-alone, well-supported fence that’s only 3 or 4-foot tall by itself might not keep this wildlife out. Groundhogs can easily scale such a fence. In case you have a fence of this height, you may use another barrier on top of that fence.
Groundhogs can and will climb up nearly as well as they can dig underground. Thus, it’s best to put up a sturdy fence that’s a minimum of 4.5 feet in height and with hole spacing no greater than 2 inches.
Bury the bottom of the fence at a minimum of 10 to 12 inches deep into the ground to prevent tunneling underneath. Then, bend the top of the fence outwards, so the animal will fall over backwards each time it attempts to climb over.
You could also create a soft barrier of preferably 18 inches of wire at the top of your fence to discourage the groundhog from climbing up and over the fence.
In addition, to stop your enemy, you might foil your 3-foot tall fence. Just leave the top 12 inches of the fence unsecured. As the fence curls downward at the top, the groundhog won’t have the support to climb over once it gets halfway up.
If the critter manages to successfully scale your fence to gain access, you might bend the top of the fence at a 90-degree angle, facing away from the garden, but do not make this bent section rigid.
Let’s quickly discuss the types of fences that can help keep groundhogs out of your yard.
Use a chicken-wire fence as a simple prevention method. Chicken wire, also called hex netting or poultry netting, is a thin, twisted, flexible, galvanized or PVC coated steel wire mesh that has hexagonal gaps.
It is usually used to fence in fowl like chickens, in a run or coop. But chicken wire can also be used as fencing to surround an area to keep out wildlife that would eat your garden crops and plants.
You’ll need chicken wire that is at least 5 feet tall and also 5-foot-high posts. Note that as groundhogs can dig, to effectively keep them out, you have to place the bottom portion of the chicken wire underground to discourage tunneling. Thus, bury the fencing one foot deep and attach the wire to the posts, except for the top 12 inches.
Unfortunately, the groundhogs can soon learn to climb your wire-mesh fence. They can use the chicken wire like a ladder. For this reason, you need to improve your fence. If you feel ambitious, build 4-foot-high panels of smooth vertical pickets to fasten to the outside of the fence. That way, they won’t be able to climb over it.
Welded Wire Fence
Twisted wire such as chicken wire can be easier for some wildlife to stretch, bite, and push through. However, welded wire, like hardware cloth, is more durable and the animal would have to chew through or break it in order to damage it to the same extent. Hardware cloth is low-gauge wire fencing that groundhogs can’t bite through.
Welded wire has strong cross points and inflexible openings, it’s more long-lasting and can stand the test of time. This fence material is chew-proof and strong enough to deter a variety of wildlife such as groundhogs.
Electric fences can successfully repel groundhogs. They will prevent them from gaining access and making a meal out of your garden. Using a simple conditioning shock can not only stop them immediately but also teaches them not to try to enter your yard again.
Alternatively, add a low voltage electric top wire to the top of your fence as a deterrent. Typically, a simple single strand of electrified wire that’s positioned 4 inches above the ground is enough to discourage these pests. If not, adding one more strand about 9 inches from the ground will work.
You can buy the wire at some hardware stores and most feed stores, however, check for the legality of this application in your area before you install it.
Groundhogs are very territorial and can become aggressive, so they’re not animals you’d like to mess with. They are stubborn and persistent, and without some sort of wildlife control treatment, the groundhog is going to destroy your garden and yard in no time. You have to eliminate your groundhog problem as soon as you discover it.
In addition, preventative measures should always be taken as groundhogs will easily enter your yard in search of food and a safe place to burrow. It’s vital to take some steps to minimize the damage and make your yard less attractive to these pests, such as harvesting your garden crops as early as possible.
Since groundhogs are primarily surface foragers, fencing is the most effective way to keep these rodents out. However, you must be careful when it comes to the selection of fences due to the groundhog’s ability to climb up and over them.