How to Stop Animals from Digging in Your Yard

Mole

Small holes keep popping up in your lawn. In your vegetable garden, too. You’ve got a pest problem and need to stop these critters from gnawing your landscape down to a moonscape. Luckily for you, we’ve gathered all the information you’ll need to identify your diggers and stop them from tearing up your yard.

Identify the diggers

The first step in getting rid of a digging animal is to identify what is causing the problem. Doing this will help you develop a strategy.

You’ll need to:

  1. 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, two-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 droppings identification key, with pictures, to help homeowners identify the droppings of unwanted animals.

  1. Examine tracks, burrows, or nests. This is also a great way to identify digging or burrowing animals. The presence of tracks leading to a burrow, the shape of the burrow’s entrance, and nearby odor can all help differentiate between the diggers. 

Commonly found tracks, burrows, and nests include:

  • A few small holes, less than three 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. These animals, and their burrows, are protected by state law. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provides a great application for reporting 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 aeration that might 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, most likely caused by moles. These diggers can also provide a benefit to your yard, as they feed on larvae and adult forms of other lawn and garden pests, such as earthworms, beetles, grubs, and other insects living in the soil.
  • 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. 

The Internet Center for Wildlife Management offers another great tool for identifying

animal tracks.

  1. Determine the time of day when the damage is occurring. This can easily narrow down your search for the unwanted diggers. Typically, raccoons and skunks are grub-eating, nocturnal diggers. 

Why are animals digging?

It’s important to know why these unwanted animals are digging in your lawn so you can determine how to get rid of them.

Animals require food, water, and shelter for survival. They’re 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 in order to manage the animals digging.

Grub tip: If you’re finding five or more grubs, per square foot, you have an infestation and your lawn will need 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.

How to stop digging

Squirrel Digging
Tom Gill | Flickr

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

  1. Modify the habitat that your unwanted animals have taken over. This can be the cheapest and most effective long-term solution. By removing their sources of food, water, and shelter from your yard, you eliminate their incentive to stay. They will quickly move on to find other resources. 

Ideas for modifying the habitat include:

  • Get rid of your bird bath if the water is attracting unwanted animals.
  • 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 on animals.
  1. Use deterrents. This is a more costly and labor-intensive option. These can include physical barriers, natural or chemical deterrents, and devices set up to frighten unwanted animals.

Physical barriers:

  • Chicken wire and chain link fences may force animals, who move above-ground, to find new feeding grounds.
  • Fencing stakes, heavy wire mesh, and cable ties can be used for short-term vegetable and flower gardens. Simply lay wire mesh over the entire garden area before planting and lay topsoil over it. Secure the mesh by placing fencing stakes around the perimeter, or a border of heavy rocks. Then, when sowing your garden, plant between the mesh holes.
  • Build an underground fence using wire mesh and hardware cloth to block tunneling animals. Dig a trench at least two feet deep, bend the bottom of a hardware cloth to create a flat, six-inch surface at the base of your fence, and insert the fence into your trench so that the flat edge is facing away from your garden. Ensure that the fence extends about 12 inches above ground, and then refill your trench with soil.

Natural and chemical deterrents:

  • 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 and garlic powder also make great natural deterrents. 
  • Commercial products are most effective when sprayed once a week. They can be easily found on Amazon, and come in both powdered and liquid forms. Castor oil-based products are both safe for children and pets that may frequent your yard.

Frightening devices:

  • Motion sensor lights are popular in deterring nocturnal diggers. Point the light at your problem area, and it is sure to startle and deter your unwanted animals.
  • Encourage house pets to spread their scent around your yard to deter small unwanted animals and critters.
  • Residential lawn sprinklers make a great deterrent for unwanted animals, but make sure not to overwater as that can cause additional problems in your yard. 
  • Sonic spikes emit high-frequency noises that can help deter unwanted animals. Experts share mixed reviews on the effectiveness of this option, as the animals can quickly adapt to their presence and become unaffected.
  1. Trap the offenders. This is an effective way to get rid of unwanted animals but can also be tricky as 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. The safest option is to hire a professional trapping service.

FAQ

Q: What animal is digging in my yard at night?

A: Raccoons and skunks are common, grub-eating, nocturnal diggers.

Q: How can I tell what is digging holes in my yard?

A: Examining any droppings or tracks, left behind by the diggers can help you
determine which unwanted animals are digging holes in your yard.

The final word

Now that you have all of the information needed in order to assess and effectively stop animals from digging holes in your yard, you’re well on your way to a yard free of unwanted animals. For additional assistance, reach out to one of Lawn Love’s lawn care professionals.

Main photo credit: Wikimedia | CC-BY-4.0

Madeline Hoppe

Born and raised in Tampa, FL, Madeline Hoppe is a customer service expert with a deep respect for the written word. In her down time, she enjoys low-key nights watching movies with her family or heading to one of Tampa Bay's local beaches on a summery day.