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25 Animals That Live Underground (With Pictures)

Although we commonly see animals on trees and land, there are many animals that live or spend time underground. These animals range from mammals and birds to reptiles. You can find them on multiple continents, from deserts to the Arctic.

Living underground has many advantages. It can provide a safe home for their nests, protect them from predators, or shelter them from extreme climates. Some animals also hunt for food underground or live underground because they prefer the dark.

Animals that live underground are known as fossorial animals and they tend to have adaptations that allow them to create burrows. Let’s learn more about these animals that live or spend time underground.

25 Animals That Live Underground

1. Prairie Dog

Scientific name: Cynomys spp.

Prairie Dogs live in the grasslands of North America. You can identify their burrows from the mounds of earth left near the entrances. Their underground homes are complex, with 30 to 50 entrances and exits per acre. They have strong family bonds and their social structures are just as complex as their burrow systems.

Prairie Dogs grow between 12 to 16 inches long, including their short tail. They usually weigh between 1 and 3 pounds. There are five different species, including Gunnison’s Prairie Dog, Black-Tailed Prairie Dog, and Utah Prairie Dog.

2. Groundhog

Groundhog showing his teeth
Groundhog showing his teeth | image by Dawn Scranton via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Marmota monax

Groundhogs are also known as woodchucks or North American ground squirrels. They live in the eastern and central U.S., Alaska, and across Canada along forest edges. These animals enjoy digging and have deep, extensive burrow systems.

On average, groundhogs grow up to 24 inches (head and body) and have tails up to 9.75 inches. They are solitary animals that only seek other groundhogs for mating.

3. Chipmunk

Scientific name: Tamias spp.

Chipmunks live in Asia and North America. There are 17 different species, and most dig extensive burrows over 11 feet long. They have cheek pouches to carry food to their burrows for storage. Their bodies are 4 to 7 inches long, with tails 3 to 5 inches.

4. Mole

Scientific family: Talpidae

Moles have large hands with sharp claws that allow them to burrow easily. Their digging motion resembles a swimming stroke. They can travel up to 4 mph and dig around 15 to 18 feet tunnels in an hour.

These animals grow between 2 to 9 inches long, with tails of 1 to 9 inches. They have small, beady eyes that are virtually blind. Their diets include earthworms, insects, and mice. Moles often cause problems in backyards and can be hard to get rid of. Here are some tips for getting rid of moles.

5. Burrowing Owl

Scientific name: Athene cunicularia

Burrowing owls live in the western U.S., southern Florida, South America, and Mexico. They are one of the smaller types of owls in North America and the only type to create nests underground. Although they can dig their burrows of up to 8 feet, they often occupy abandoned holes by other animals.

These owls grow 8 to 10 inches tall. They enjoy eating small mammals and large insects.

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6. American Pika

Scientific name: Ochotona princeps

The American Pika is sometimes called whistling hares because of the unique whistle they make to communicate. They live underground for shelter and nesting and are considered semi-fossorial. They also bury the plants and seeds they eat for the winter. Pikas are small mammals growing to around 6 to 10 inches long.

7. Fennec Fox

Scientific name: Vulpes zerda

Fennec foxes are the smallest foxes globally and live in dens underground in the Sahara desert. They use their feet as shovels for digging dens up to 3 feet deep.

They have distinctive large ears that can reach 4 to 6 inches. Their large ears are an adaptation that allows them to dissipate heat and detect prey underground. Fennec foxes are commonly kept as pets by exotic pet owners and enthusiasts.

8. Dwarf Mongoose

common dwarf mongoose | image by Michael Jansen via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Helogale parvula

Dwarf mongooses are found in eastern Africa and are the smallest species of mongoose. They normally create their burrows near termite mounds, their main food source.

They have a glossy, smooth coat varying in color. Dwarf mongooses grow between 7 to 10 inches, with tails 4.7 to 9 inches long.

9. Chinese Pangolin

Pangolin | credit: Adam Tusk | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Manis pentadactyla

The Chinese Pangolin creates burrows using their scaled bodies and feet to kick dirt out of the entrance. They sleep in burrows and, during the winter, make burrows near termite nests for a food source. In China, they are sadly endangered and poached for their scales and meat for Chinese medicine and delicacies.

Pangolins are between 45 inches to 4.5 feet long and weigh between 4 to 72 pounds. They have long snouts and tongues that allow them to eat ants and termites.

10. Funnel Web Spider

Funnel-web Spider

Scientific family: Atracidae

Funnel Web Spiders are found in eastern Australia. There are 35 species, with some that are extremely venomous. They have funnel-shaped webs coming out of their burrows with trip lines on the sides alerting them to prey or predators. Their bodies are between 0.4 to 2.0 inches, with a hairless carapace covering the front.

11. Nine-Banded Armadillo

Scientific name: Dasypus novemcinctus

There are 20 species of Armadillos, and the Nine-Banded Armadillo is the only species in the United States. They’re typically found in southern states like Florida, but in recent years their range has expanded as far north as Tennessee.

These armadillos dig multiple burrows for refuge in case they feel threatened during foraging. They can have between five and ten burrows hidden. Armadillos can jump a surprising four to five feet high. Wildlife should not be handled, but nine-banded armadillos should especially not be handled due to their ability to carry and transmit leprosy, 

12. Weasel

Scientific name: Mustela spp.

Weasels are mostly found in the Northern Hemisphere, including the short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea) in the U.S. Their underground burrows have two entrances near the surface and can be up to 10 feet long.

Weasels are generally 6 to 8 inches in length with tails up to 2 inches long. They are fierce predators that enjoy eating other small mammals, including rodents.

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13. Wombat

Scientific name: Vombatidae

Wombats have powerful, big claws and feet to help them dig efficiently. In one night, they can move up to 3 feet of dirt. Their burrows have tunnels to various spaces, including a chamber for sleeping.

Although they look like tiny bears, they are marsupials. They grow around 40 inches in length, with stubby tails.

14. Red Fox

Image: Pixabay.com

Scientific name: Vulpes vulpes

Red foxes dig dens or burrows to give birth, raise pups, store food, or find shelter from the rain. They are the largest of the true foxes, growing around 18 to 35 inches in length, with tails 11 to 21 inches. These foxes live together in pairs or small groups across the entire Northern Hemisphere.

15. Kingfisher

Scientific name: Alcedinidae

Kingfishers are found globally, except for Antarctica. Kingfishers are not completely fossorial, of course, but will create nests underground. Instead of nests, these birds build burrows in softwood trees, dirt banks, or old termite mounds. They use their feet to build the burrows that have a nesting chamber for eggs.

There are at least 92 species of kingfishers. They all have dagger-like bills and excellent vision and most have bright plumage.

16. Pocket Gopher

pocket gopher | image by sfbaywalk via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Geomys bursarius

Pocket Gophers live in woodlands and grass prairies across North and Central America. They are known for their tunnels that include various burrowing chambers with specific functions. Sometimes they even share their tunnels with other animals.

They get their name because they can turn their fur-lined pouches inside out when removing contents, similar to pockets. These animals grow between 5 to 14 inches long.

17. Jerboa

lesser Egyptian jerboa | image by Cliff via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific family: Dipodidae

There are over 30 known species of Jerboa living throughout deserts in Africa and Asia. Jerboas are nocturnal and live mainly in burrows. These desert-dwelling rodents only grow to around 4 inches. Their strong back legs allow them to jump up to 10 feet at once.

18. American Badger

American badger | image by USFWS Mountain-Prairie via Flickr

Scientific name: Taxidea Taxus

American badgers are found in south-central Canada, northern Mexico, and the western, eastern, and central United States. There are also 11 other species of badgers in other countries.

These animals use burrows for sleeping, concealment, birthing, and protection from the elements. Burrows vary from 4 to 10 feet deep and 4 to 6 feet wide. They are very clean animals that don’t defecate or bring food into their burrows.

19. Polar Bear

polar bears | image: Pixabay.com

Scientific name: Ursus maritimus

Polar bears are a top apex predator in the Arctic, where they live. Although they have 4 inches of fat to keep them warm, they also build burrows in the snow and ice to shelter from extreme temperatures.

Polar bear cubs will usually stay with their mothers in the burrows, also called maternity dens, after they are born between November and January. Emerging only during the spring when temperatures are warmer.

20. Desert Tortoise

desert tortoise by Joshua Tree National Park via Flickr

Scientific name: Gopherus agassizii

Desert tortoises live in southwestern North American deserts, including the Mojave and Sonoran. They burrow into the sand to protect themselves from extreme desert temperatures. These tortoises grow between 9 to 15 inches and can live from 50 to 80 years.

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21. Aardvark

Aardvark | image by CucombreLibre via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Orycteropus afer

The aardvark is a burrowing, nocturnal mammal that can be found in sub-Saharan Africa. They are insectivores that feed primarily on ants and termites. These fascinating animals dig burrows that they stay in during the day and use to raise their young. They have a long, pig-like snout which is perfect for detecting their prey. 

22. Eastern coral snake

Eastern coral snake
Eastern coral snake | image: John | Flickr | CC 2.0

Scientific name: Micrurus fulvius

Eastern coral snakes are highly venomous snakes that are native to the Southeastern United States. They have potent neurotoxic venom that they use to subdue their prey. While they have the potential to be dangerous, they are rarely seen due to their secretive and fossorial nature. They spend most of their time underground or under logs, leaf litter or other debris, only coming out at night. 

23. Muskrat

Muskrat by -Rita-👩‍🍳 und 📷 mit ❤ from Pixabay

Scientific name: Ondatra zibethicus

Muskrats are semi-aquatic rodents that are widely distributed in North America. They are very important to the wetlands that they inhabit as they help regulate the vegetation that is found there. Muskrats create dens by burrowing into riverbanks that have an underwater entrance and above-water chambers that they use. 

24. Gopher tortoise

Gopher Tortoise
Gopher tortoise moving out

Scientific name: Gopherus polyphemus

Similar to it’s relative the Desert tortoise, the Gopher tortoise is an incredible ecosystem engineer native to the Southeastern US. They create long burrows that can be up to 30 feet in length. These burrows not only provide shelter for the Gopher tortoise, but also provide shelter or other resources for up to 60 different vertebrate species and over 300 different invertebrate species. 

25. Spotted Skunk

source: USFWS Midwest Region

Scientific name: Spilogale putorius

The spotted skunk is a small species of skunk native to the eastern US and can also be found in small areas of Mexico and Canada. Spotted skunks may either dig their own burrows or use burrows that have been abandoned by other animals. In fact, they have even been documented using gopher tortoise burrows. Spotted skunks typically spend the cooler months in these burrows and mothers will raise their litters in burrows.