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11 Animals That Dig Holes in Yards (Pictures)

There are many species of animals that dig holes in yards, and oftentimes they’re perceived as pests and something to remove. However, it’s important to remember that burrowing and digging animals are integral for soil health and a balanced ecosystem. This article is a guide to some of the common animals that can create holes in your yard, with some tips on how to handle them when they appear.

Backyard wildlife is always interesting to learn about, as it’s a great way to appreciate nature from the comfort of your own home. As you go out into your lawn, you may notice small, or sometimes larger, holes, especially around the edge of your yard. The following list shows animals that are often responsible for digging holes in people’s yards, but whether or not these are animals that may be digging holes in your yard will depend on where you live and what wildlife can be found there, of course.

Collage animals that dig holes in yard

1. Skunks

Skunks are a common perpetrator of holes in the yard throughout the United States. If you have skunks, you’ll most likely know from the distinctive musky smell they use to mark territory. Skunks get a bad reputation for this smell, but they only spray when threatened as it is one of the only ways they can defend themselves. 

Skunks usually cause damage to lawns in search of insect larvae, and they do so with a very distinctive “rolling” of the sod to get underneath. The first step to getting rid of skunks is to get rid of the white grubs in the soil which you can do using county recommended chemicals. Spraying dish soap in places where these grubs congregate is also apparently a potential method to deter them. Additionally, encouraging birds to visit your yard is a natural, chemical free way to remove grubs from your yard. From there, the skunks will most likely leave your property if there isn’t an abundance of food for them.

How to get rid of skunks in your yard or patio

The best way to prevent skunks from settling in underneath your porch or patio is to exclude them preemptively. This means adding a fence below the deck using hardware cloth and being sure to bury it a foot underground to prevent any rogue diggers.

2. Groundhogs

Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are another common culprit. Like many burrowing mammals, they dig in search of places of shelter. The most common places they’ll choose to burrow are around decks, storage sheds, and houses with crawl-spaces and can cause significant damage.

Another reason they’ll dig is, like the skunk, in search of food. They’re more likely to dig in vegetable gardens and places with higher vegetation, as they’re in search of fruits, seeds, and greens. The best way to prevent this is to install fences and take preventative measures where possible.

How to get rid of groundhogs in your yard

To get rid of groundhogs in your yard, consider installing a sturdy fence around your property and using humane traps to capture them. Once captured, release them in a suitable natural habitat away from your yard to prevent further intrusion.

3. Moles

Once a mole invades a yard, it can cause considerable damage almost immediately as a voracious digger. A single mole is able to tunnel up to 18 feet per hour in suitable soil, and this can cause significant damage to roots and weaken the surface of lawns.

Identifying a mole infestation means looking for volcano-shaped mounds of soil with no entrance or exit holes that are pushed up from deep below the soil surface and raised ridges of soil running through the grass, usually in the shaded portions of the lawn.

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Before you set out to eliminate the moles from your property, consider the benefits that moles provide to soil aeration and fertilization, as well as free pest control for the white grubs that also ruin lawns. Moles are also quite versatile, and after one is removed, it’s highly likely another will move in, leading to an ongoing removal process.

How to get rid of moles in your yard

To effectively get rid of moles in your yard, use mole traps designed for humane capture and removal. Place the traps in active mole tunnels and check them regularly for captured moles, then release them away from your property.

4. Pocket Gophers

image: Katja Schulz | Flickr | CC 2.0

Pocket Gopher infestations are commonly misread as moles, but it’s important to distinguish between the two. The Pocket Gopher, considered a keystone species is a species of conservation concern due to shrinking habitats, and only efforts to reduce or dissuade their presence on your yard should be considered. Pocket gophers are not found all over the US, and their range is restricted to the southeast and the midwest.

Unlike the Mole, the Pocket Gopher is a strict herbivore and will frequently consume roots and bulbs they encounter while digging. Tunneling can occur at any time of year, but they’re most prevalent in the spring and fall. They can also be found nibbling on leaves and stems alongside boundaries, such as paths or the edge of the yard.

You can identify the tunnels by their large crescent or fan-shaped dirt mounds that contain a hole plugged with dirt that serves as an entrance and exit. This indicates the presence of intricate tunnels beneath the surface that can better irrigate the soil while decreasing surface water runoff.

How to get rid of pocket gophers in your yard

To effectively remove pocket gophers from your yard, employ traps specifically designed for gophers and place them in their tunnels. Regularly inspect and reset the traps until the infestation is under control.

5. Voles

image: Pixabay.com

Voles burrow during the Winter in order to stay warm, lining the tunnels with grasses from the previous fall in order to provide insulation and protection from predators. In the late summer and fall, they gather and store seeds, tubers, and bulbs in preparation for the snowy months.

Evidence of voles is most obvious in the early Spring once snow and frost cover disappears. Voles leave behind runways in the turf’s top 2-3 inches of soil. They’re around 1-2 inches in diameter and usually contain typical mouse feces.

You can reduce vole populations by regular mowing in order to reduce coverage for them, but this is only really recommended in areas of high vole populations that are actively causing issues. Voles are an integral part of the ecosystem, as they’re prey for many birds of prey, foxes, and other predators and populations are constantly in flux from season to season.

How to get rid of voles in your yard

To get rid of voles in your yard, use vole traps placed in their active runways, and make your yard less attractive to them by reducing dense ground cover and keeping your grass short.

6. Raccoons

Raccoons are omnivorous, which explains why they thrive in close proximity to humans. They can be commonly found consuming fruits from gardens, rummaging through discarded food in dumpsters, and creating holes in yards by digging up insects in yards. This can make them a common pest to many communities, but there are many benefits to raccoons, such as pest control of other animals that can damage your lawn.

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Prevention is key when working with raccoons, with precautions such as sealing the tops of garbage cans and trimming back tree branches around the roof and chimney, as these are common places raccoons would like to nest and raise their young.

Raccoons also play a large role in the local ecosystem, and it’s important to keep in mind that we were the ones who came into their habitat. Humans are the largest cause of raccoon mortalities, so if you have raccoons in your yard, do your best to live capture and release or call in a professional.

How to get rid of raccoons in your yard

To deter raccoons from your yard, secure trash cans with tight-fitting lids and avoid leaving pet food outside. Additionally, you could try installing motion-activated lights or sprinklers to make your yard less appealing to them.

7. Digger Bees

image: Judy Gallagher | Flickr | CC 2.0

This term encompasses a diverse group of small hairy or metallic bees that dig in the soil to nest, such as andrenid bees, halictid bees, and colletid bees. These are solitary bees and important native pollinators.

The female digs a cylindrical underground tunnel that acts as a nest where she reproduces, which is different from the more social honeybees, where only the queen reproduces. The female makes “bee-bread” that consists of a mixture of nectar and pollen collected from nearby flowering plants.

Coexistence rather than eradication is highly encouraged whenever possible because they have an important role as pollinators within their ecosystem. The threat of being stung by digger bees is highly overrated, and they’re more annoying to the homeowner than dangerous.

Not to mention, the holes they create in yards are small and harmless. Control is usually not necessary unless the bees are nesting especially close to human activity where they’re more likely to be disturbed.

How to get rid of digger bees in your yard

To get rid of digger bees in your yard, consider planting bee-repelling plants like mint or lavender to deter them from returning.

8. Earthworms

image: Pixabay.com

Like most animals in the lawn, the earthworm is incredibly important and valuable to the overall health of the yard. Their burrowing activity improves the soil by increasing air and water movement while helping decompose thatch. They’re also an integral food source for many birds and burrowing mammals.

Earthworms do contribute to a rough and bumpy lawn that may be less than aesthetically pleasing, but this can be easily solved by reseeding your lawn with a local species that’s better suited to the site. This can be compounded by proper fertilization, mowing, and irrigation to create a lush lawn that’s only helped by the humble earthworm.

How to get rid of earthworms in your yard

To discourage earthworms in your yard, reduce overwatering and avoid organic matter buildup. You can also use chemical treatments specifically designed to control earthworm populations if necessary.

9. Wasps

Wasps get a bad reputation, but they do play an important role in their ecosystems. Nests that are out of the way should be left alone, even if they’re close to human activity. Solitary wasps that dig have the ability to sting, but won’t unless handled or threatened.

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Stings from solitary wasps are usually not severe, but it does vary from individual to individual. Still, if a nest is located where problems could arise where the nest is routinely disturbed, such as under a deck or near an often used door, removal is justified.

Solitary wasps are especially helpful in keeping spider, cicada, and other insect populations down. Their stingers are mostly used to paralyze their prey and leave them in their burrows for their offspring. The insects are placed in the hole and a single egg is deposited before the female seals the plug, never to return. The wasp offspring feed on the paralyzed insects and develop into wasps that emerge the following summer.

How to get rid of wasps in your yard

To get rid of wasps in your yard, set up wasp traps with sugary bait away from high-traffic areas. Additionally, identify and remove their nests, preferably at night when they are less active, to effectively eliminate the problem.

10. Chipmunks

Eastern Chipmunk sitting on the ground
Eastern Chipmunk sitting on the ground | image by Denis Fournier via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

In the eastern half of the US, it is not uncommon for chipmunks to make themselves at home in your yard. Chipmunks commonly dig small holes (~1-2 inches in diameter) in garden beds, yards and at the edges of walkways, foundations, and other structures. Chipmunks are capable of constructing somewhat complex burrow systems underground.

Luckily, chipmunk burrows do not tend to cause property or structural damage. Their burrows may be somewhat unsightly and they may chew on bulbs or roots, but overall they are harmless to have in your yard. Chipmunks serve as prey for other animals and also help to disperse seeds, making them an important piece of the ecosystem.

How to get rid of Chipmunks in your yard

Chipmunks like to use woodpiles and brush piles as shelter, so be sure to remove these piles or move them away from your garden and house. If you have a birdfeeder, you may be attracting chipmunks to your garden that eat the fallen seed. If this is the case, consider moving your birdfeeder further away or purchasing one that would limit the amount of fallen seed. 

11. Armadillos

If you live in Texas or the southeastern US and notice holes appearing in your yard or garden beds, you may have been visited by an armadillo. Armadillos will dig shallow holes about 3 inches deep and five inches wide as they search for prey such as earthworms, grubs or other insects. Additionally, armadillos may also dig burrows that are large enough for them to sleep in, and these burrows can be quite complex and go deep under ground. 

While armadillos do not typically cause much damage other than leaving holes around the yard, their burrows may cause structural damage. 

How to get rid of armadillos in your yard

Like with most other animals on this list, one of the best ways to deal with armadillos in your yard is to make your yard less appealing to them by removing debris and brush piles that they could use to shelter in. Armadillos are also nocturnal, so installing bright, motion triggered lights may help to scare them off. If these methods fail, it is best to call in a professional to trap and remove the animal as contact with armadillos can be dangerous due to their ability to carry and transmit leprosy.