Can Groundhogs Climb Trees? [Answer & Facts]

Photo: Melissa Burovac / Shutterstock

Groundhogs, also called woodchucks, are the largest rodents in the ground squirrel family.

Since they are relatives of the squirrels and chipmunks we see in trees, you may wonder whether groundhogs can climb, too.

Groundhogs can climb trees. Despite their chunky bodies, woodchucks have strong front limbs and are agile climbers. Most groundhogs climb to escape predators, survey their surroundings, or for food. Woodchucks can also climb fences, walls, and metal ducts or gutters. While they can escalate obstacles of any height, fences taller than three feet could deter them.

Can a Woodchuck Climb? 

Woodchucks are often seen foraging on the ground, and it is common knowledge that they spend most of their time in underground burrows.

However, groundhogs are essentially squirrels, and they can climb trees just fine. 

Not only can they climb trees, but they can also climb fences and walls. Thus, if you want to keep groundhogs out of your garden or yard, you should install barriers that are at least three feet tall – preferably taller.

Fencing with chicken wire is generally an effective method of keeping woodchucks away from your edibles.

What Kind of Fences and Walls Can Groundhogs Climb?

Groundhogs have stocky bodies, but their front limbs are long and strong. They also have strong claws that can grow up to an inch long. 

Strong front limbs and claws are an adaptation to their environment; these mammals generally live underground, and in burrows, they dig themselves.

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However, their strength helps woodchucks climb on a variety of surfaces. They can usually climb all sorts of fences, although fences made of smooth materials, such as PVC, could be a challenge. 

Groundhogs also seem to dislike chicken wire fences, maybe because they’re wobblier than solid panels. 

Unless you want to install an electric fence, the barrier should be at least three feet high. It must also end with a top bend angled outward at 45 degrees. This portion makes it difficult for these pests to jump over the fence. 

The mesh size should also be smaller than 2×2 inches, as young groundhogs can sometimes squeeze through holes this size.

Woodchucks can also climb on walls if the surface is rough enough to allow gripping. Apparently, they can also climb on metal ductwork or gutters and can sometimes find a nesting spot in an attic or another quiet place inside your house.  

How High Can Groundhogs Climb? 

There are no specific studies on the height groundhogs can climb. However, it is believed that they can climb trees and fences of any height. This doesn’t mean they do so, though.

Unlike squirrels and chipmunks, groundhogs don’t naturally live in trees. They are terrestrial mammals that live in burrows and forage on the ground. Their diet mostly consists of grass, a variety of other plants, grubs, snails, and insects. 

Considering anecdotal evidence of groundhogs in the attic, they can definitely climb up to at least ten to 27 feet. 

Why Do Groundhogs Climb Trees? 

Groundhogs can climb, but what determines them to do so if they are terrestrial animals? There are three main reasons. 

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For Food 

While groundhogs are mostly herbivorous, they include insects and some animal derivatives in their diet. 

The most common food woodchucks find in trees is fruit. Groundhogs are particularly fond of apples, so they could climb your apple tree. You could also spot several burrows across an apple orchard. 

Generally, the animals eat the apples that have fallen to the ground. However, particularly hungry or greedy woodchucks could climb the tree for an apple or two. 

Other foods woodchucks find in trees include eggs, insects, and even young birds.

To Escape Predators 

Because of their larger size and burrowing habits, groundhogs don’t have many predators. Humans aside, they are generally prey for foxes, dogs, and coyotes. 

None of these animals can climb trees, making trees a safe haven for woodchucks trying to escape them. 

However, this is only true for adult groundhogs. Youngsters have more predators, including raptors such as hawks, owls, and eagles, as well as bobcats that can hunt them in trees.

To Survey Their Surroundings

Another reason why woodchucks climb trees is to survey their surroundings. Almost all groundhogs spotted in trees were either eating or resting but being alert.

Do Groundhogs Sleep In Trees?

Even though groundhogs can climb trees, they don’t generally sleep in trees. Most groundhogs dig their own burrows underground.

This species rarely occupies abandoned burrows – although abandoned groundhog burrows can become home to other wildlife. That’s because groundhog dens are complex dwellings consisting of several different chambers.

Because tree burrows generally consist of a single space, they don’t cater to a groundhog’s needs. This is why woodchucks generally avoid living in them. In some cases, though, a groundhog could take residence inside a tree burrow.

How to Get a Groundhog Out of a Tree?

If groundhogs took residence in a tree burrow, you could employ several humane ways to get rid of them. 

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Close The Burrow

Groundhogs are solitary diurnal animals, so closing their burrow as they are foraging is generally easy. 

Use chicken wire cut into sections small enough to fit into the den but large enough to block the entrance. 

Before closing the burrow, check and make sure there are no young groundhogs inside. Female groundhogs raise their kits in the same dens where they live. 

Harass The Occupants 

Another common method is to harass the groundhogs. If the burrow is near the ground and covered by vegetation, you can alter the habitat. 

Remove grasses and plants covering the entrance; groundhogs may feel less secure in the new environment and abandon the burrow.

If the groundhog took residence upper in the tree, place cloths soaked in repellents near the entrance. 

While there are no specific repellents for woodchucks, deer and rabbit repellents containing fox urine could work. Kitty litter can also scare off these pests.

Scare devices such as helium balloons or suspended beach balls can also discourage them from climbing into the tree.

Use Live Traps

Capturing and relocating the groundhogs is one of the best options if you want to keep them away from your garden or orchard. 

Use apples or other foods groundhogs like to attract them into the trap, then relocate them at least five miles away from your property.


Groundhogs can and will climb trees for a variety of reasons. If that reason is food, you can use different methods to deter or get rid of them. Sometimes, woodchucks can find shelter in tree burrows; however, this is rare as they generally live underground.

James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

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