How to Stop Animals from Digging in Your Yard


Every homeowner wants a perfect carpet of lush green grass that boosts curb appeal and is safe for recreational use. So when wildlife disrupts your perfect lawn by creating holes and tearing up turfgrass, you need to know how to stop animals from digging in your yard.

That’s why we gathered information on how to identify digging critters and stop them creating annoying holes in your yard for you to trip over.

How to stop animals from digging in your yard

Carefully weigh your options for treating lawn pests. You will need to do one or more of the following:

Modify the habitat

One way to deal with unwanted animals taking over your yard is to modify the habitat. This can be the cheapest and most effective long-term solution. 

Removing sources of food, water, and shelter from your yard eliminates wildlife’s incentive to hang around. Once they are deprived of their food supply, wildlife might go away and search for food elsewhere.

Here’s some ways you can modify the habitat:

  • Cover up water sources if possible. Remove pet bowls, bird baths, or any empty containers filled with water. This will get rid of drinking sources in your yard.
  • Apply beneficial nematodes to your yard for grub control.
  • Apply grass seed to your lawn regularly, with turfs that have deep root systems. Thick lawns make digging harder for animals.
  • Remove bird feeders. Bird feeders can be an excellent source of food for certain diggers.
  • Pick up fruit or nuts. Fruit trees provide a food source for invading diggers, so when your trees are producing fruit, make sure you pick up any fruit, nuts, or other organic matter off the lawn to keep your grass from turning into a fruity buffet for diggers.

Physical barriers

Chain link rail section

A barrier such as a fence or wall will thwart digging critters. The particular type of pest causing chaos in your yard will determine what kind of fence you need. Fences may not stop climbing critters, but underground fences can be effective against tunneling creatures like moles.

There are several types of fencing you can use to keep animals out of your yard and garden:

  • Chicken wire
  • Chain link fence
  • Fencing stakes
  • Heavy wire mesh
  • Cable ties

Fencing stakes, heavy wire mesh, and cable ties can be used for short-term flower beds and vegetable gardens.

To block tunneling animals, build an underground fence using wire mesh and hardware cloth. 

  1. Dig a trench at least 2 feet deep. 
  2. Bend the bottom of a hardware cloth to create a flat, 6-inch surface at the base of your fence. 
  3. Insert the fence into your trench. The flat edge should be facing away from your garden. Ensure the fence extends about 12 inches above ground. 
  4. Refill the trench with soil.

Building a fence 2-4 feet tall keeps out rabbits and other small ground-dwelling mammals that aren’t known for their climbing abilities. Animals that are skilled at climbing, such as squirrels and raccoons, will not be deterred by a low fence. 

Natural and chemical deterrents

There are a lot of natural ingredients that can be used to deter digging animals, including:

  • Castor oil. Most animal deterrents contain castor oil. Castor oil-based products are good repellents that are environmentally-friendly and safe for both kids and pets.
  • Cayenne pepper. Cayenne pepper mixed with water can be used around plants to deter unwanted animals. Reapply after heavy watering, rain, or at least every couple of weeks.
  • Coffee grounds. Spreading coffee grounds around your yard can be a great natural way to ward off digging pests. 
  • Garlic powder. To create a homemade garlic deterrent, mix 1 teaspoon of garlic powder with 2 cups water, 1 tablespoon pepper flakes, and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.
  • Mint. Mint essential oils are available. Spray them around the yard to deter digging pests. 
  • Soap. Put a bar of soap in drawstring pouches and hang it around your yard or garden to ward off destructive digging pests. You also can hammer wooden stakes around your grass and hang the pouches of soap off of the stakes.

Apply these ingredients around the perimeter of your yard or to apply them around trouble spots on your property, whether that be certain plants or a specific section of your yard.

You also can turn to chemical repellents. Commercial products are available in both granular and liquid forms and they are most effective when sprayed once a week. Here are a few recommended animal repellent products:

The way that chemical animal repellents work is by releasing a foul odor that animals won’t like. The problem is that what smells bad to animals usually smells bad for humans too, so this kind of smelly deterrent may not work if you need to apply it near your house.

Usually you simply spray the liquid around the yard or place granules around your garden or other trouble spots, and this will be enough to deter wildlife from entering your yard. 

Motion-activated lights

Black Color Motion Sensor Light

Motion sensor lights are popular for deterring nocturnal diggers. Point the light at your problem area, and it is sure to startle and scare unwanted animals away when the lights unexpectedly turn on.

Here are some good motion-activated lights:


water coming out of a sprinkler in a lawn

Motion sensors can activate sprinklers that squirt a blast of water whenever wildlife intruders are nearby. Residential lawn sprinklers make a great deterrent for unwanted animals. Make sure not to overwater as that causes more water problems for your lawn.

Here are some sprinkler animal repellents that you can try out in your yard:

Sonic deterrents

Sonic spikes emit high-frequency noises that deter wildlife. Experts share mixed reviews on the effectiveness of sonic deterrents, as animals can quickly adapt to their presence and become unaffected.

Here are some sonic deterrent models you could try to repel animals by scaring them off with some noise:

Other noisemakers can help scare off digging pests, such as leaving on a radio or adding wind chimes to your garden.

Trap the digging wildlife

Trapping the offending wildlife is an effective way to get rid of the animals digging in your yard.

Trapping animals can be tricky since it is legally restricted in many cases. It is also considered a short-term fix, as other animals of the same species will seek out your yard if you don’t remove the resources that they are looking for.

If you decide to go this route, don’t attempt a DIY animal trapping. The safest option is to hire a professional trapping service. Professionals have experience handling wildlife and know how to safely and humanely remove critters from your property.

Seeding your grass

grass seeds in a hand
schulzie | Canva Pro | License

When grass is thick and healthy, it’s difficult for burrowing animals to dig up. Bare lawns make soil more accessible for critters to dig into, but a thick layer of grass acts like a barrier protecting your lawn from diggers.

To create a strong barrier of grass, overseed your lawn. Due to its deep root system, tall fescue is an effective cool-season grass for growing a bushy, thick lawn that deters pests from digging up your grass. For warm-season grasses, zoysiagrass is a good option, as it grows densely.

Keep your yard clean

Trash attracts raccoons and other vermin, so one way to discourage digging animals from visiting your yard is to keep all trash locked up tight. 

Check that your trash cans are tightly sealed. If necessary, you can keep them shut by putting a cinder block or a heavy object on top of the lid to make sure raccoons can’t pillage the trash. 

Also make sure your yard is kept clear of debris or litter. Large branches or piles of leaves can shelter small animals and make your yard an inviting space for burrowing critters.

What animals dig in your lawn?

hole made by gopher in a lawn
AHPhotoswpg | Canva Pro | License

Once you have identified the type of animal you are dealing with, you can plan an effective strategy for getting them out of your yard. 

First you’ll need a list of all the usual suspects in order to determine what kind of animal is the culprit tearing up your flower beds:

Keep in mind that aside from ground-dwelling mammals, there are multiple types of birds that tend to tear up soil searching for tasty insects. These birds can include crows, magpies, and starlings. 

Once you have identified the animal digging in your yard, you will be able to plan an effective strategy to stop them tearing up your soil and turfgrass. 

How to identify the diggers tearing up your yard

There are several signs you can keep an eye out for to help you properly identify an animal digger in your yard.

Animal tracks

Most digging animals are nocturnal, so you probably won’t spot them during the day. Fortunately, animals might leave behind tracks as evidence that they were in your yard. The Internet Center for Wildlife Management offers a helpful guide for identifying animal tracks.

  1. Skunks have five-toed claws and aren’t able to retract them.
  2. Badger tracks look a bit like a dog paw print but with five toes.
  3. Birds have a stick-like footprint with three long toes. 
  4. Foxes have dog-like pawprints.
  5. Raccoons leave behind elongated tracks that are shaped a bit like a human foot with long toes. 
  6. Opossums have hand-shaped tracks. 

Aside from tracks, you might be able to detect if the intruding critter is skunk by a foul odor around your house. 

Burrows or nests

Most burrowing animals are nocturnal and work at night while you sleep, so you most likely won’t catch an animal in the act of tearing up your lawn. However, it’s possible to identify the type of animal you are dealing with by looking at the shape of the holes in your yard.

Examine any burrows or nests in your yard to identify the intruding animals. The shape of the burrow’s entrance can help differentiate between the diggers.

Commonly found burrows and nests include:

  • A few small holes less than 3 inches in diameter could belong to chipmunks, voles, Norway rats, or snakes. 
  • Large holes, 6 to 12 inches in diameter, near the base of trees or walls could belong to red foxes, skunks, armadillos, or coyotes.
  • Large holes, 6 to 12 inches in diameter, accompanied by a large mound of sandy soil, could belong to a gopher tortoise. State law protects these animals and their burrows. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provides a great application for reporting gopher tortoise sightings.
  • Shallow holes, surrounded by a ring of loosened soil, are often caused by skunks. While they can damage your yard, their digging technique creates a kind of lawn aeration that can actually benefit your yard.
  • Chunks of grass that have been flipped over generally indicate the presence of a raccoon. For an easy fix, simply flip the sod back over with the grass blades pointed up and then water it to bring back your turf.
  • Ridges in your soil could be signs of an underground tunnel system caused by moles. These diggers can provide a benefit to your yard, as they feed on lawn and garden pests such as earthworms, beetles, grubs, and other insects living in the soil. 
  • If you spot mounds or ridges in the earth but don’t see any holes in your yard, you are most likely dealing with moles.
  • Asymmetrical, 10-inch, crescent-shaped mounds could be a sign of pocket gophers. They create underground tunnels 6 to 12 inches below the soil’s surface and leave behind no visible entrance hole. 
  • Tunnels with funnel-shaped openings that measure around 3-4 inches wide are built by possums, raccoons, and skunks. 

Animal droppings

rabbit droppings in a lawn
Noj Han | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Inspect any droppings or scat left behind. The size, shape, and color of droppings can provide important clues. 

Commonly found droppings include:

  • Small, pea-sized pellets could be from rats, mice, chipmunks, or bats.
  • Rounded, pea-sized pellets could be from rabbits.
  • Slightly larger, smoother, oval pellets could be from a white-tailed deer.
  • Smaller, oval pellets could be from a squirrel.
  • Small, 2-inch long, segmented pellets with pointed ends could be from a fox or coyote.
  • Four-inch long, segmented pellets with blunt ends could be from a bobcat.

The Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management offers a guide to identify animal droppings, with pictures, to help homeowners identify the droppings of unwanted animals.

Time when the damage occurs

Determine the time of day when the damage is occurring. This can easily narrow down your search for the unwanted diggers. 

  • Most digging animals are nocturnal, such as raccoons and skunks, who like to go scourging for grubs at night. 
  • You might be more likely to spot rabbits, who are active at dawn and dusk. 
  • Groundhogs and chipmunks are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. 

However, even nocturnal animals can sometimes be seen during the daytime, so keep an eye out. If you want to see if you can spot nighttime animals visiting your yard, you can try searching for them with a flashlight.

Why do animals dig in your yard?

Animals require food, water, and shelter for survival. Animals in search of food are hungry for worms, insects, and grubs in your yard, and they’re thirsty for the water that has collected in the bird bath out back. Consider how to manage these resources to prevent animals from digging.

Grub tip: If you’re finding five or more grubs per square foot, you have an infestation and your lawn needs to be treated. Cut a piece of sod and pull it back. If you have grubs, their white bodies will stand out against the dark soil underneath.

If wildlife digs in your yard looking for tasty grubs to snack on, shouldn’t getting rid of grubs get rid of the diggers? Not necessarily. You need to treat your yard to eliminate a grub infestation, but animals can still snack on dead grubs, so applying a grub treatment alone won’t be enough.

Grub pest control will likely help resolve your digging pest problem, since grubs are a good food supply for digging animals. Without this food source, digging animals will leave and search for food somewhere else. 

FAQ about preventing animals from digging in your yard

Will applying insecticides prevent animals from digging in my yard?

Insecticide application may not completely prevent wildlife digging in your yard, although it can be helpful as a long-term solution and it will help discourage wildlife from visiting your property.

Animals can still snack on dead grubs or other dead bugs, but once their food supply starts running low, they can go in search of food somewhere else. 

What kind of plants repel digging wildlife?

Homeowners might be wondering what plants they can add to their garden beds to act as a natural repellent that prevents wildlife. Prickly plants with sharp thorns or leaves are hard to get past, so they help keep wildlife away from your property. 

Certain plant aromas warn wildlife away, so adding these plants to your landscape will help keep your yard wildlife-free:

  • Daffodils
  • Dill
  • Garlic
  • Geraniums
  • Lavender
  • Lemongrass
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Marigolds
  • Mint
  • Onion
  • Oregano
  • Purple cone-flower
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Yarrow

How do you fix tunnels in the yard?

Holes and tunnels in your yard will eventually collapse on their own. However, if you want to get rid of the tunnels in your yard ASAP, there are some things you can do to fix the problem. 

Use your foot to flatten mole mounds or sections of the yard where there are tunnels. This will compact the soil and collapse underground tunnels. You also can use a garden tool such as a garden trowel. You also can run over the area with a mower or a roller to push the soil down.

Another way to fill in the holes is to add dirt to the tunnel:

  1. Dig a trench to the tunnel. 
  2. Fill the tunnel with gravel (or a soil layer for garden areas). 
  3. Top the gravel layer with the topsoil.
  4. Fertilize and overseed your lawn so the turfgrass will grow back.

If you can see tunnel openings, you can pour soil down the hole and pat it flat with a shovel or other type of gardening tool. 

Need help with wildlife removal?

From fencing to natural scent deterrents, there are many ways to stop animals digging in your yard. Now that you have the information needed to effectively stop animals from digging holes in your yard and vegetable garden, you’re well on your way to a yard free of unwanted animals. 

If your lawn needs maintenance after pesky critters have dug it up, don’t hesitate to find a lawn care pro near you. Or if you need a pro to come trap nuisance wildlife that has been tearing up your garden, find a professional wildlife removal company in your area.

Main photo credit: Christoph Moning | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 4.0

Danielle Gorski

Danielle Gorski lives with her family in Texas. She has a degree in Professional Studies and a minor in marketing. Her hobbies include reading, drawing, and writing.