If you look closely at the ground around your home or in the wild, you will likely see holes. Some of these holes may seem small, but they can be deceivingly deep and intricate underground. What makes these holes? This article will detail 20 animals that dig the deepest dens and tunnels underground. Some of them may surprise you!
20 Animals That Dig the Deepest
The following list contains 20 animals that dig the deepest dens on the planet, with some digging 40 or more feet into the ground!
1. Nile Crocodile
Scientific name: Crocodylus niloticus
This large reptile can be found in the fresh waters of 26 different countries in Africa. The Nile Crocodile is a ferocious carnivore that lives off fish as well as animals that get too close to the river banks.
These reptiles are known to build deep dens, with some measuring up to 39 feet deep. On average, these dens are between four and six feet deep, though.
2. Yellow-Spotted Monitor
Scientific name: Varanus panoptes
The Yellow-Spotted Monitor is also known as an Argus Monitor or a Goanna. They can be found in Australia and New Guinea. These reptiles build complex, twisting burrows for nesting.
This burrow is made up of three tunnels that end in a chamber where the female lays its eggs. These burrows usually measure between five and 12 feet in depth.
Scientific name: Manis
There are eight species of Pangolin – four are found in Asia, and four are found in Africa. Pangolins can roll into a ball and use their armor-like covering for protection.
However, they also dig burrows underground to stay safe. Pangolins have extremely strong front legs and claws they use to dig burrows underground. These burrows can measure up to 11 feet deep.
Scientific name: Suricata suricatta
Meerkats are weasel-like animals that live in large groups called gangs or mobs. These groups can contain up to 40 meerkats. While these animals often use burrows already made by other animals, they are also excellent diggers that can create their own complex burrows.
They have special membranes on their eyes to help protect them from dirt and debris as they dig. These burrows can have up to 15 entrances, several chambers used for different purposes, and be as deep as 6.5 feet.
Scientific name: Formicidae
With over 12,000 different species, ants are one of the most abundant creatures on Earth. It is no secret that most species reside in mounds often called ant beds.
These mounds often don’t look like much on the surface but can be quite intricate and deep underground. Some of these ant beds can stretch as far as 25 feet underground.
6. Prairie Dog
Scientific name: Cynomys
Prairie Dogs are rabbit-sized rodents that live in family groups in burrows underground. These extensive burrows have areas designated as nurseries, bathrooms, living quarters, and more. These burrows can be anywhere between 3 and 14 feet deep.
Scientific name: Vombatus ursinus
Wombats are marsupials, which means they keep their young in pouches. They can be found in Australia and have strong claws used for burrowing.
They build these burrows in grasslands and forests. These burrows can become pretty extensive and go up to 11.5 feet into the ground.
8. Pocket Gopher
Scientific name: Geomyidae
Pocket gophers are members of the rodent family and are named for the fur-lined pouches, or pockets, in their cheeks that they use to hold food.
These burrowing animals have the special ability to use their teeth to dig without getting dirt and debris in their mouths. Their extensive burrows can reach up to 6 feet in depth.
Scientific name: Orycteropus afer
Aardvarks are nocturnal creatures native to Africa. They are burrowing animals that use strong claws to dig large burrows to sleep and take care of their babies.
They can dig very quickly, moving up to 2 feet of dirt every 15 seconds. These burrows can be big enough for a human to fit into and up to 32.8 feet deep.
Scientific name: Talpidae
Moles are small, burrowing animals. There are 42 mole species in the world. Moles spend most of their time underground, so they have small eyes and no external ears, which helps them burrow without getting dirt in their eyes and ears.
Their paws are broad, making digging easier. These tiny creatures can dig burrows up to 40 feet in depth.
11. Desert Tortoise
Scientific name: Gopherus agassizii
When you think of animals that dig, a tortoise might not immediately come to mind, but the desert tortoise is quite the accomplished burrower. As the name suggests, these creatures can be found in hot deserts like the Mojave Desert.
They must burrow into the ground to escape the heat or extreme cold. In the winter, their burrows can reach depths of up to 30 feet.
12. Meadow Vole
Scientific name: Microtus pennsylvanicus
These mouse-like rodents tend to live in marshy grasslands, orchards, meadows, and near rivers or streams. These little creatures do not burrow as deep as some of the other animals on this list, but compared to their size, their foot-deep burrows are pretty impressive.
13. Ghost Shrimp
Scientific name: Palaemonetes paludosus
Despite the name, these small creatures are actually more closely related to crabs. These aquatic animals help the ecosystem by pushing oxygen into the sand when they burrow. They only grow up to four inches in length, but they are able to burrow up to 4 feet into the sea floor.
14. Burrowing Owl
Scientific name: Athene cunicularia
When you think of owls, you might imagine them living in the trees. However, burrowing owls are ground-dwelling members of the owl family. These owls are only about 10 inches tall and have a wing span of up to 24 inches.
While many burrowing owls live in burrows made by other animals, they can make their own burrows. These burrows can be up to 3 feet deep.
15. Australian Mouse Spider
Scientific name: Missulena
You might not expect a spider to be on this list, but the Australian Mouse Spider makes the list for its ability to burrow up to 12 inches into the ground.
These trapdoor spiders use their burrows to hide in and wait for unsuspecting prey. Then, they drag the prey inside to consume it.
Scientific name: Leporidae
There are 29 rabbit species that can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Rabbits burrow under the ground to stay safe from predators. These burrows are made up of a complex series of tunnels and can reach up to 10 feet deep.
17. Greater Bilby
Scientific name: Macrotis lagotis
The Greater Bilby is a nocturnal, burrowing animal native to Australia. Also known as the rabbit-eared bandicoot, this creature lives in the desert. They dig deep burrows that have spiraling tunnels that can reach depths of up to 6.5 feet.
Scientific name: Mustelidae
Badgers are small, aggressive mammals found in North America, Great Britain, Ireland, and the majority of Europe. Some species are found in Japan, China, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
There are eight species of badger. These burrowing mammals dig holes in the ground up to nine feet deep.
19. Common Earthworm
Scientific name: Lumbricus terrestris
Common Earthworms are reddish-gray-colored invertebrates found in Europe, North America, and western Asia. Earthworms are typically only a few inches long, but some have been known to grow as large as 14 inches in length.
They are segmented creatures with specialized bristles on their bodies that help them dig into the Earth. They can dig an impressive 6.5 feet into the ground.
Scientific name: Marmota monax
Groundhogs are furry rodents found in North America. They build complex burrows with several “rooms” for different things, such as nurseries, sleeping areas, and bathrooms.
They spend the warmer months eating a lot of food to build up a fat reserve and hibernate in these burrows during the winter. These burrows are usually around 6 feet deep.