Any wild animal will find a backyard garden attractive. Vegetable gardens and flower gardens both provide food and shelter to these critters. However, you probably did not intend to feed the local wildlife with your garden. There are steps you can take to prevent animals from entering your garden, and determining what has been digging the holes will help you know which animal-proofing tactics you need to take in your yard.
Skunks and Raccoons
Both skunks and raccoons will dig holes while rooting around in gardens for fruits and bugs. Skunks in particular are good at hearing bugs under the top soil and digging them out. If you have skunks regularly digging up your garden, then you probably have a lot of earthworms, bugs and possibly termites in the area. If the digging looks scattered and is not a perfect hole, then you likely have skunks and/or raccoons.
Some birds will dig holes in the garden, not usually to find food but rather to hide it. Jays and crows in particular will hide nuts in small holes to save for the winter. However when winter comes, they may not have the best memory and will make many small holes trying to find where they hid their stash. The bird holes in the spring, summer and fall will be covered up by the bird. In the winter, they will leave the holes open.
Tree squirrels will often dig holes for the same reason as the birds. Like the birds, they may not remember exact locations and have to dig several small holes before finding their hidden nuts. The holes are similar to those of birds, with the squirrels covering them up in the spring, summer and fall, and leaving more of an open hole with dirt flung around in the winter.
Ground Squirrels, Gophers and Rabbits
Ground squirrels and gophers will dig holes as outlets and entrances to their underground colonies. Rabbits will usually make a single hole for themselves and their young. The roots and vegetables found on the surface will be eaten by these ground-living critters. If the hole goes deep and you cannot see the end, then you probably have a ground squirrel or gopher. Gopher holes will have piles of dirt surrounding the hole. Rabbits and ground squirrels have slightly neater holes.
Keeping Animals Out of the Garden
One effective method for keeping any animal out of the garden is to install a motion-activated sprinkler. These devices spray a strong shot of water when motion is detected. This will work against most critters. You can put bird netting over your entire garden to keep birds and squirrels out. For animals that enter from underground, you will need to install fencing that goes about 3 feet deep into the ground around all sides of your garden.
- Encyclopedia of Mammals; Dr. David Macdonald; 1995
Lynn Anders has more than 15 years of professional experience working as a zookeeper, wildlife/environmental/conservation educator and in nonprofit pet rescue. Writing since 2007, her work has appeared on various websites, covering pet-related, environmental, financial and parenting topics. Anders has a Bachelor of Arts in environmental studies and biology from California State University, Sacramento.