For all the time and energy we spend making sure our yards look nice, it sure is frustrating to realize some pesky animal dug a bunch of holes in the grass.
How do you know what type of animal is digging holes in your yard, and how do you stop them from coming back? This guide will help you troubleshoot what pests might be causing trouble for your lawn and what you can do to deter them.
Which Animals Dig Holes in the Yard?
It can be hard to know exactly what animal is responsible for the holes in your yard without seeing them cause the damage firsthand.
Most commonly (and depending on where you live), the following animals could be causing damage to your yard:
- Rats or Mice
7 Animals That Might be Digging Holes in Your Yard
No matter what animal is digging holes in your yard, you can discourage their presence by reducing and eliminating food and water sources. You may not realize it, but food and water sources like bird feeders, fruit trees, ponds, and irrigation hoses can provide animals with some of their most basic needs. It can be hard to get animals to go away (and stop digging) if they know food and water are nearby.
Before attempting control of any animals, read your local wildlife laws and check with your state's fish and game or conservation department. Some of the animals on this list may be legally protected, and you may be limited in how you're able to deal with them. Always make sure to follow local and state laws when it comes to pest removal!
If you notice that an animal is digging holes in your yard, it's safe to guess it could be some type of rodent. The term 'rodents' doesn't just apply to mice and rats, and rodents come with risks.
Rodents of many kinds are happy to make their way from your yard into your home warm, cozy home. Whether it's chipmunks, rats, mice, or squirrels, you want to avoid rodents in your yard at all costs; rodents in your yard could soon mean rodents in your house.
Chipmunks are small rodents that bring a burst of energy to any backyard. Known for packing their cheeks full of food, they have tiny, powerful legs and are experts at scampering quickly across the ground or up trees.
Physically, chipmunks have:
- Reddish-brown fur
- White and black stripes down their back
- White patches on the cheeks
- Small bodies and long tails (2-6" long with a 3" tail)
Chipmunks prefer to nest and hang out in wooded areas. They are mostly ground dwellers but often climb trees (and homes) looking for food and protection. They will dig in the yard to nest but are likely in search of food.
Chipmunks are known for digging up and eating insects, freshly planted seeds, and bulbs. They also love strawberries, as well as plums and apples (which they primarily eat for the seeds).
Another mischievous rodent, squirrels may be fun to watch, but they can become a serious nuisance for homeowners when they cause damage or infestation.
In terms of physical appearance, squirrels:
- Are larger than chipmunks (10-24" long depending on species)
- Range in color from grey to brown
- Have a white abdomen
- Sport a long, distinctly bushy tail
Whether it's burrowing, hunting for insects, or digging up nuts they buried for winter, squirrels are tenacious and can be very destructive, especially if they have a comfy burrow nearby.
Rats or Mice
The primary reason that rats and mice burrow in yards is for nesting. They like to seek shelter and warmth below ground. The problem with this? If they're nesting nearby, they will be looking for food around your house, and you definitely want to avoid rodents scurrying outside your home.
Rodents like rats and mice are very sensitive to airflow. Therefore, any small gaps that lead from inside your house to outside will attract rodents because of the warm air and delicious smells leaving your home. Rodents only need small spaces (as small as a dime!) to squeeze into. From there, they can go from a minor problem to a full-grown infestation in little time.
To avoid rodents of any kind in your yard or home (not just mice and rats), seek to reduce food and water sources and clutter around your property. Then, ensure your home is adequately sealed from top to bottom with a steel excluder, wire mesh, or metal flashing. Finally, stay away from spray foam! This will keep pests outside where they belong!
Also called 'meadow mice', voles aren't actually mice at all, though they are closely related. While the two share many similarities, there are a few physical characteristics that distinguish them:
- Darker in color (ranging from grey-brown to black)
- Similar size (3-9") but shorter tail
- Rounder head
- Smaller eyes
- Similar body shape to a hamster
Voles may seem tiny and harmless, but they can cause great destruction to yards and gardens with their foraging. Not only do they dig shallow burrows and runways, but they'll damage the vegetation as they go.
Address voles quickly with the help of a pro. If left alone, they can quickly overrun a garden or yard and cause serious damage to plant roots, bulbs, and young plants or seeds.
It's pretty easy to spot mole damage because of the distinct, small hills of dirt they leave throughout lawns and gardens. If you need to control moles, traps are the most consistent way of dealing with them, but some states limit mole trapping.
Moles are seldom seen in the daylight, as they spend all of their time digging underground. When they do come out, their dark-colored fur keeps them well camouflaged amongst the dirt.
If you have moles, you're likely seeing mounds of dirt as well as some possible tunnels, uneven patches of grass, and raised ridges through your landscape. Even though their damage can be extensive, moles are very territorial. Depending on how large your property is, the damage you're seeing is likely caused by one single mole.
With their long ears and soft, furry bodies, you probably know exactly what a rabbit looks like. What you might now know is that rabbits often dig burrows underground, both for warmth and safety from predators.
Rabbits are likely not digging holes all over your yard, but if they dig a hidden burrow in your yard, this could mean trouble for the plants in your landscape.
While most animals tend to be a bit pickier with the foliage they'll eat, rabbits will happily feast on a variety of plants, including:
- Grass shoots
Rabbit damage can significantly weaken plants, making them more susceptible to disease, pests, and withering. To discourage rabbits, start by clearing debris and low-lying brush from your property. Once rabbit hiding spots have been cleared away, consider installing enclosures to keep rabbits out for good.
Found primarily in the southern U.S. and parts of Central America, the armadillo is a mostly nocturnal creature with leathery armor and claws that are great for digging.
Often found in wooded areas near rivers or ponds, armadillos are known for quick and destructive burrowing habits. They can make quick work of digging long burrows under your lawn. These burrows can be up to 15 feet long and can even cause pathways and sidewalks to collapse!
When they're not burrowing, armadillos spend their time looking for food to feast on, and their favorite meal is a feast of bugs found in your lawn or garden. While they will eat small amounts of fruits, veggies, tender plants, and smaller animals (like lizards, frogs, and snakes), 90% of an armadillo's diet is insects, and they find these insects by digging with their claws.
If an armadillo is digging holes in your yard, use fencing to keep them out of certain areas and contact a local wildlife control specialist for further assistance.
Signs of an Animal Digging in Your Yard
If you see holes in the yard, it isn't always obvious which animal is responsible for digging them. Start by asking yourself whether the holes look like burrowing holes or foraging holes.
Burrowing holes will be deep and likely involve tunneling systems, where foraging holes will look like parts of your lawn have been scratched away.
Burrowing pests like to hide in areas like wood piles, brush, shrubs, dense vegetation, and clutter, so start by clearing your yard and trimming back plants to reduce hiding areas for digging animals.
What Causes Animals to Dig in the Yard?
Animals are likely digging in your yard for one of two reasons:
- They have constructed a burrow or tunnels
- They are looking for food
While some of this activity is unavoidable, especially in the fall and early winter, aim to reduce hiding spots and potential food sources if you're worried about a digging animal setting up camp in your yard.
How to Prevent Digging Animals in Your Yard
While knowing which animal is responsible can help with control, you don't need to know for certain which animal is digging holes in your yard to start taking steps to eliminate their presence.
Start with the following methods of control:
- Eliminate potential food sources such as bird feeders and fruit from fallen trees
- Reduce standing water wherever possible (kiddie pools, animal watering dishes, etc.)
- Set up barriers around vulnerable plants, such as vegetable gardens or flowers
- Use rocks or metal screening to create a physical barrier in the dirt that cannot be dug through
- Cut back vegetation to reduce hiding areas for pests
Why are animals digging in my yard?
Animals are likely digging in your yard because they are looking for food or because they have dug a burrow for shelter.
Will the animal digging holes in my yard go away on its own?
The answer to this question depends on the activity you're seeing. Some of the activity is unavoidable, especially as animals like squirrels forage for food in preparation for winter. Some damage, however, is far more extensive and becomes a repeated issue. If this is the case, it is best to contact a wildlife removal specialist before things get out of hand.
How do I keep animals from digging holes in my lawn?
To keep animals out of your lawn, start by reducing food and water sources whenever possible, especially bird feeders, fruit that has fallen from trees and open compost piles. Trim back surrounding vegetation and reduce clutter to eliminate animal hiding areas, and try to fence off areas where animals shouldn't be.
Coexisting with Garden Wildlife. UFL Extension
Raccoon Damage Identification. Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management
Armadillos. Wildlife Damage Management