Forestry & Wildlife
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – While working outside, some people may find they are not the only ones digging around. Animals, such as squirrels, chipmunks, armadillos and moles, are known culprits for digging in yards, gardens and flower beds. Controlling these digging animals is possible, but there are a few things to know.
Identify the Pest
Jim Armstrong, an Alabama Extension wildlife specialist, said the first step to control is identifying the animal.
“Once you know the animal that is causing the problem, it will be easier to come up with a solution,” Armstrong said. “There are several ways to get rid of pests, but not every method will work for every pest.”
According to Armstrong, the armadillo is most often the culprit of complaints about yard damage. Armadillos search for earthworms and grubs, rooting up yards as they go.
Damage from an armadillo is fairly distinctive. When on the hunt, the armadillo uses its long, sharp claws to break the surface of loose soil. This leaves holes on average about 3 inches wide and 5 inches deep.
Another animal troubling to landscapes is the mole.
“Moles dig tunnels through yards in search of food,” Armstrong said. “Moles have an enormous appetites and may eat up to 100 percent of their body weight in a single day.”
These tunnels form ridges in the soil, which can lead to a fairly unattractive yard. In fact, if it wasn’t for these tunnels, many might consider moles beneficial to homeowners.
“Contrary to popular belief, moles do not eat the roots and bulbs of flowers and vegetables,” Armstrong said. “In fact, they may benefit these plants by feeding on grubs and worms that can damage them. However, the tunneling activities of moles may disfigure lawns and gardens.”
There are several options homeowners can use to control digging animals. Installing a fence around your home is a cost effective way to control these pests.
“Mesh fencing is the best option for homeowners,” Armstrong said. “If the mesh does not work, adding chicken wire around the fence will provide more deterrence.”
Armstrong recommends if you are using a fence to exclude digging or burrowing animals, the fence should be buried at least 10 inches into the ground to discourage the animal from digging under the fence. This will make it near impossible for animals to get through.
Sometimes, using lethal traps and measures is needed to control some animals, such as armadillos and moles.
“Homeowners can trap armadillos using a cage and a barrier of boards to help guide them into the mouth of the trap,” Armstrong said. “Once trapped, armadillos should be humanely euthanized.”
Armstrong warns that because armadillos are an invasive species, they should not be relocated to another area.
When dealing with moles, the best solution for control is using lethal traps.
“There are several lethal traps that can be used to eliminate moles,” he said. “You can find many of these traps online or at a local outdoors store.”
There are additional products at gardening stores to purchase for control. They range from poisons to deterrents. These options might prove to be beneficial solutions in small yards with no domestic animals. However, these options could be expensive to use on large yards.
For more information on these and other garden pests, visit Alabama Extension online or contact your county Extension office.