I just mow the lawn and the next day I wake up to a freshly cut lawn with about 6 holes in it. Looks about as big as my fist and mounds of dirt pushed out. This was very disappointing as I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend grilling out and playing backyard games, but I had even more work to do. I decided to figure out what was causing these holes, and stop it in its tracks.
Holes being dug in your backyard are normally caused by a rodent or insect depending on the size of the whole. Other indications include whether there is dirt mound near the top, the area that you live, and what the holes are near.
There is a lot that goes into diagnosing what is causing holes in your backyard so lets not waste any time figuring it out and getting rid of whatever it is.
Holes By Size
To start off we will diagnose by hole size. We will start with the larger ones and add on any other indications that might come with the hole as well as where these holes might be located with relation to other objects like bushes, your home, rivers, etc.. The bolded words will be the possible differentiating factors that you will find to help you eliminate other possibilities.
6-18 inches -> These holes can be a home to a variety of large rodent. You will likely not find insects digging holes this size. Depending on the depth of the hole will show whether it is an animal that burrows or simply searching the surface for food.
- Armadillo – About 3-6 in deep holes with mounds behind them. They dig for food such as grubs or worms and can be found in various places around the lawn.
- Skunks – Normally less than a couple inches deep as they are simply scratching the surface attempting to find food so the holes will also be scattered around the lawn. They can dig holes for shelter, but it is more often that they dig under structures like sheds or decks to take cover.
- Raccoons – Their holes will generally look similar to skunks except deeper or they will flip up sod. They have stronger claws and can use their front paws to get a little deeper to look for food.
- Rabbits – less likely animals as while they like to burrow for shelter they prefer to do so under some type of cover or out of site.
- Groundhogs – these may be the largest sized holes you have because of the size they can grow, but they can burrow very deep so you may not know exactly where it leads
- Dogs and Kids – Yes I know this sounds a little silly, but if you don’t have a fence a dog or child just may be the culprit especially if you are coming back to new holes at the end of the day. Many animals that do this are nocturnal while kids and dogs definitely are not(no matter what their parents say)
- Gophers – While these guys are looking for food, they are herbivores. They are eating roots, shrubs, flowers, and other things of the like. These holes may look similar to moles, but they will be found near the plants they are eating. So, if its in your garden bed or you see a lot of plant matter near the entrance(they are known for dragging their food into their hole) than it is probably these fellas.
- Moles – They are almost like a household name for digging holes, but ironically are not always the most common in certain areas. They dig deep holes that eventually level out underground to just below the surface to tunnel somewhere else. Mounds of dirt hide the entrances, but you will periodically see dirt along the trail as the mole creates vent holes to breath. You may not see them above ground much as they also eat grubs and worms that they find as they are digging. If it is moles, than read here quick.
- Coyotes, Foxes and Wild Hogs – these are foragers and sometimes will dig near structure for shelter. They are a lot easier to spot as you will likely see more of their activities. They will also have numerous other indications as the size of their stool, often tree bark scratched off, and numerous other things.
- Turtles – Yup, that is pretty crazy but the gopher tortoise does in fact dig and they have very distinctive shell shaped holes. Be careful though, these guys are rare and that also means protected so don’t mess with them.
1-6 inches -> These holes are generally more due to mammals still just because of the size, but we are starting to get a bit closer to possible insects. These holes are more likely to be do to animals making shelter or protection from predators and food will likely be caught or foraged and brought back to their home.
- Rats – In particular the Norway Rat. They are known for digging holes to escape predators. Often times they will have shredded or gnawed material around the entrance. They also may have an escape route so these holes may not have an end underground.
- Voles – or field mice burrow for shelter. They feed on grass and often will make pathways through the grass almost like little overhangs or dirt paths depending on the height. You won’t generally find mounds near the entrances and they will more than likely be found around shrubs or trees as they dig into root systems.
- Chipmunks – These guys dig particularly small holes for a mammal and are also awake foraging during the day which makes them a lot easier to identify.
- Snakes – This may be a little deceiving as snakes do not normally dig holes, but they do, however, take over holes after they eat the former owner. Savages I know, but they are just trying to survive like the rest of us.
- Crawfish – These holes will be pretty distinctive as they will be near muddy areas and other animals tend to stay away from these types of unstable areas. You will often see tall mud towers around a broad hole near a river, creek, or mud pit.
- Squirrels – They dig for food and don’t necessarily dig for shelter. They still may take cover under a mall area or hole in tree roots that are exposed, but they won’t dig a hole to sleep in at night when they can climb to higher, safer places to to better survive. If you ever find buried food then it may just be a squirrel saving leftovers for later.
This size of animal is often in search of food and eats other pests. Many of their prey will burrow into the ground such as snails and slugs which will cause them to dig up the ground in order to get to them. Read here where we discuss how to solve your snail or slug problem before it ruins your lawn.
<1 inches -> These holes are generally made by insects or some other non small creature. I think they are generally less commonly known, but can definitely be significantly easier to identify and safer to attempt to dig up to identify the cause.
- Beetles – Ox beetles in particular create mounds of soil around a quarters size. They can be found often near dead wood or composting material. Beetles can also be an indication that you have grubs(their larva) in the ground somewhere else in your lawn.
- Land Crabs – More commonly found near water they make small holes near the surface for shelter and to hide from predators.
- Grubs – Often there are other indications of these in your lawn. You will sometimes see dead grass. Animals will flock to the area to dig up and eat them during the night so this might be masking other indications. You can actually make a harmless solution out of 4 tablespoons of liquid detergent and 1 gallon of water, sprinkle it over the area, and the grubs may come to the surface in less than 10 minutes.
- Wasps – These guys can be nasty as they can also pack a punch if you unknowingly disturb them. Cicada killer wasps may not live in the holes but the will lay eggs in a cicada that they dragged to the bottom of the hole they dug(sometimes up to 2 ft deep!). Great golden digger wasps also make their home underground out of tiny holes so be careful.
- Bees – Ground bees make little mounds with about 2 inches radius in the middle of the lawn for their home.
- Earthworms – Generally very tiny holes that you may not even see based off of their size. While the size is similar to the ground bees, they have smaller mounds around the entrance. They also tend to be attracted to moist soils as they are a little easier to get through with their soft bodies.
There are so many different possibilities and these are not even all of them. If you think you have narrowed it down then search to see what particular rodents or insects are common in your area. If you still can’t identify them then consider asking a professional to come out. They know your area and know the tricks to tell since they are experience with your local rodents and insects.
How To Get Rid Of Them
Here are some tricks to getting rid of these animals or at least not letting them terrorize your lawn. They can do that to your neighbor, but you work too hard.
For large creatures consider:
- Buying a fence
- Eliminating what is bring them there
- Utilizing natural predators urine
- Buy an outdoor dog
- Powerful spices
Fences can be expensive for just getting rid of a rodent problem, and don’t always work but if it lines up with your plans it might just kill two birds with one stone.
Trapping can be challenging and also means you have to get rid of whatever you trapped. For some this is a little harder because it might involve killing an animal. If you do kill it make sure to check it it is endangered or protected as you can get pretty hefty fines for this. If you don’t want to kill it than you can drive somewhere to release it and this will likely ease your conscience. I don’t like this answer however because it can put you in danger since it is a wild animal, so not recommended.
What keeps them coming back. If its the food(grubs) than look below to get rid of them. If its shelter then maybe remove some of the plant life in the area. Destroying an animals home also puts a human scent all over it and makes it much less likely for them to come back as they are much more scared of you.
Natural predators urine is a favorite. You can spread it out in small containers across you lawn or even spread or hang it from trees. Sprinkle it around the home. This is sure to scare off whatever animals happen to venture into your area.
Buy a dog. Ok, this maybe the right or the wrong answer. I love dogs, don’t get me wrong, but it is also an animal that loves to dig so be weary. You also need to feed and care for them so if you are not ready for the commitment then don’t go down this path.
Powerful spices can make an animal with a sensitive nose think that the area is unbearable. Sprinkle it around your house, their house, and some common areas you see holes to make your yard more annoying and your neighbors a little more appetizing.
For smaller creatures it is much more common to use some sort of store-bought or professional grade repellant. Purchasing one specific to your insect that has a high rate of success is the most recommended option. Be sure to consider ecologically healthy options as you don’t want to kill your lawn while you’re at it.
You can also…well, kill your lawn. Ok, hear me out, because you’re not actually killing your lawn. You are allowing you lawn to get dry which happens to let your grass to die to let the grubs or other insects within it die due to a harsh environment.
For insects like wasps and bees I would say let a professional do it. It may cost a little to higher an exterminator, but you will save yourself from a dangerous situation. These wasps and bees can be very nasty and you don’t want to be having an allergic reaction in your backyard with no one else around.
If you have any further questions than please call a professional. I am all for a DIY adventure, but some people get paid to do a very good job and get it done every time. You don’t want to always be dealing with the heartache and twice the time when you could be relaxing on your deck sipping a cold lemonade watching your kids play in the safety of your new backyard.
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What is a groundhogs natural predator?
What is an armadillos natural predator?