Mysterious holes in the yard

Published 8:30 pm Saturday, August 29, 2015

A question that I get on a regular basis at my office is “what is making all of these holes in my yard?’ Sometimes the holes are grapefruit size or golf ball size. Some holes are deep but some are described as shallow. Sometimes there are piles of dirt and sometimes not. Rarely do my clients see a creature making the hole.  If moles, ground bees, squirrels or the neighbor’s dog are ruled out, what’s left?

After my clients tell me a little about their hole, my first question is this, ‘is there any dirt mounded on top or scattered around the hole?’ If loose dirt is present, I have to conclude that some creature put the soil there. If there is no soil around the hole, it is probably caused from a rotted stump or decomposed root underneath.

If soil is piled around the hole, a creature did the deed. Since animals and insects of different sizes can make holes in the landscape, my second question is ‘how big is the hole, what does the soil mound look like and where is it located?’

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The following list describes various hole dimensions, soil conditions and hole locations, followed by the creature responsible:

• 12-36 inches in diameter, thoroughly plowed three inches deep – armadillo

• 6-10 inches in diameter, no mound, scattered in the lawn – skunk or raccoon

• 2 inches in diameter, no mound, scattered in lawn – squirrel

• 2 inches in diameter, small mound one inch high, under a shrub, log pile or concrete slab – rat

• 2 inches in diameter, small mound, in lawn with raised grass nearby – mole

• 1 inch diameter, soil thinly scattered around hole, middle of the yard – cicada killer wasp

• One-fourth inch diameter, mound two inches high and wide, several in middle of the lawn – ground bee

• No hole, mound two inches high and wide, several in middle of the lawn – earthworm

Rarely do problems arise from these ‘hole diggers’. Trapping armadillos is a possibility. Treating your lawn for insect issues will usually solve the mole dilemma. Skunks and raccoons are normally just passing through! Squirrels are a part of life. The others don’t hurt a thing – mystery solved!

Rebecca Bates is director of the Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Service. To contact her, call 601-835-3460.