Is it Illegal to Catch and Release Groundhogs?

Groundhogs that damage your garden or ruin the foundation of your house should be removed. You can simply trap it and remove it by relocating. But is that so simple?

What about the laws and regulations? Is it legal to catch and release groundhogs in your area?

Well, both yes and no- depending on which state you live in and what are the state and local laws. We have tried to give you a brief idea about the entire process here, take a look.

Is it Illegal to Catch and Release Groundhogs?

Can you Trap and Release a Groundhog?

Yes, you can trap a groundhog and release it or relocate it. You can release it in the same place or you can simply take it further into the wild and relocate it there.

However, according to law, you cannot release or relocate the groundhog on someone else’s property or in the park. It is only ethical to release it in the wild.

Keep in mind that law is a factor there too. Relocating groundhogs in the wild is not legal everywhere. Taking it further, in several states, it’s illegal to trap a groundhog or kill it.

Legally Trapping a Groundhog

One of the most important things that you will need to know before you start trapping any pest animal, including groundhogs, is what the local regulations are and whether you will be breaking any laws by doing so.

Several different areas of the trapping process may break the law, so make sure you check out what you can and can’t do in your area.

The most important factor in many states is that the process must be humane, so this means that you will need to be checking the trap regularly to ensure the animal doesn’t suffer, even if you are using a lethal trap.

Lethal Trap

While trapping a groundhog, you must follow state law. In most states and countries, you can go for a lethal trapping method for the pest animals that are damaging your property.

It’s mostly legal but in this case, you need to ensure that you are doing it humanely. If you go for a lethal trap, make sure that the trap kills the groundhogs.

At times, the traps only do half of their job and the result is an injured animal. This is what you need to avoid- you can’t injure the animal and kill it humanely if you want to remove it.

Cage Trap

On the other hand, you can go for cage traps as they are mostly legal in different states. But when you go for this one, make sure you go for the jurisdictions to check out the rules.

In a few cases, according to the rule, only a professional can carry out the process of pest removal and without the permit, you cannot do it.

In such a situation, either you will need a permit, or you have to settle for a registered animal removal expert. They will carry out your work more professionally.

Live Trap

If you see that there are no boundaries to relocating the groundhog, you can also settle for a live trap.

This will help you catch or trap the animal and then allows you to release or relocate it in the wild. A very famous method is to catch a groundhog with a milk jug– learn about it!

Legally Relocating a Groundhog

And, what to do with a groundhog when you catch it? You can either relocate it or kill it humanely!

We know what relocating is, but what happens when you relocate a groundhog? Do they survive? Or do they die?

Groundhogs are highly adaptable and so, eventually they survive the relocation. The process of relocation requires you to release the live groundhog in the wild- in a field or meadow or a wooded area.

You need to ensure that it is at least 5 miles away from your home or from the place you have trapped it.

Otherwise, they have a thing for coming back, trust us! In the new place, you will start living as you did in your yard! They will create homes and gather food and eventually, survive!

Local Regulations and State Law

You don’t want to trawl through years of documentation of the state legislators for killing, catching or relocating groundhogs, right?

Well, this is why we recommend you learn about the local and state regulations and laws before you catch, kill, or relocate a groundhog.

This is where the legal and illegal part comes in. Different states and localities have different sets of rules for nuisance groundhogs. However, it is generally illegal to catch groundhogs in most states and release them wherever you want.

The reason behind this is they are wild animals and so, they are protected by the law. Here, we will only discuss some of the states or areas so that you can have an idea of the legal catching and relocation of these animals.

1. Ohio

In Ohio, you can live trap groundhogs but here, you will need the permission of the landowner. At times, you might not plan to relocate the species.

In this situation, you can release the groundhog where it is originally trapped. On the other hand, you can plan on killing it in Ohio.

However, according to Ohio law, you need to kill the animal in a humane manner.

2. Virginia

If you see a groundhog or groundhog that is causing damage to your property, you can remove it in Virginia.

This animal can cause a health risk and this is why groundhogs are not protected in Virginia.

However, while removing, make sure you follow the rules of your state and locality. Relocating the animal to another area has a specific set of laws to follow. Contact the local health department for this.

3. Illinois

In Illinois, groundhogs are game species. You can trap and hunt these animals in Illinois. In this case, you will need a Nuisance Animal Removal Permit or PDF for trapping and removing the groundhog.

Also, you can communicate with the annual Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulation.

They will discuss the season dates along with the legal method of harvesting groundhogs if you are interested.

4. NY

It is illegal for you to trap and relocate almost any wild animal and nearly all species of wildlife are protected in New York.

Among these species, the endangered species like the hawks, owls, and songbirds are the ones. They are protected and might not be taken.

However, there are unprotected species like the red squirrel and the woodchuck. Though you can trap it legally, you cannot release it anywhere.

Relocating it in the park, state land or anyone else’s property is prohibited by the law. If you want to remove it, you need to contact Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator (NWCO).

While relocating requires a lot of care in New York, you are free to shoot the groundhog. In this case, you won’t need a hunting licence.

If the animal is damaging your property, you have all the rights to kill the animal and it is permitted by the law.

5. NJ

In New Jersey, it is illegal to relocate groundhogs. In this case, either you can shoot or leave the animal the way it is.

If you have enough space to shoot the animal and you own a gun, you can simply shoot it.

6. NC

You can trap and remove groundhogs in NC without any permission. The law permits you to hunt groundhogs year-round and that too without any bag limit.

Also, you can remove and relocate them at any time. However, in this case, you need to follow the approved hunting methods. Make sure you are not doing it in the resident areas. In such places, firearms are prohibited.

But you can plan on trapping the groundhog and simply relocating it away from your house in the wild.

7. Michigan

In Michigan, you cannot relocate a groundhog off the property where you have trapped it.

While trapping it, you need to make sure that you are using the live traps that have been labelled with the trapper’s name.

Besides, the address of the trapper should be mentioned there. In areas, groundhogs can be harvested too by trapping them year-round. But for this, you will need a Michigan hunting licence.

8. PA

If you live in Pennsylvania, it is legal to trap groundhogs. Groundhogs taken alive may not be retained alive.

The same rule applies to selling and giving away any wildlife. If the groundhog is alive, you can simply trap it and relocate it to a natural setting.

And if wildlife like the groundhog is killed, you need to report it to the Game Commission.

9. TN

If you live in Tennessee, you are free to trap a groundhog. However, you cannot relocate it as it carries illnesses and diseases.

It is strictly prohibited to transport any live wildlife anywhere along with someone else’s property. In this case, you need to get a permit if you want to relocate groundhog and follow the local regulations.

Wrap Up

We have not mentioned all the countries or states here as it’s not possible to do it in such a short section. And there are differences in different localities in the same states.

The best thing you can do is get your hands on the local regulations and the state laws about groundhogs before you trap them.

Or you can also talk with a certified professional to remove it from your property!

About Dale E. Bitting

He is the founder of Rodents Info, where he provides comprehensive methods, tips, tricks, and techniques to keep harmful rodents at bay from homes and landscapes. As a rodents expert, he shares valuable information and resources to help safeguard properties against unwelcome critters. Dale is also passionate about nurturing and caring for harmless pet rodents. He offers pet parenting guides, tips, and advice to ensure these furry companions live happy and healthy lives. Join him as he explores the fascinating world of rodents and celebrates the joy they bring to our lives. Learn more..

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