Plenty of homeowners have experienced the unpleasant shock of discovering unsightly holes, torn-up turf and piles of dirt scattered around the yard that seemed to appear while they were sleeping. If this has happened to you, you probably immediately wondered what is digging up your lawn at night.
Raccoons and skunks are two common grub-eating nocturnal culprits for digging in yards. Skunks tend to make shallow holes with loosened soil, while raccoons can actually use their front paws to pull up chunks of sod and flip them over to find whatever delicious food might lie beneath. Rabbits are burrowing animals that have also been known to dig holes in yards, and they have a better chance of doing so undetected at night. In addition, there are other animals that are active during the day, including squirrels, that might damage your lawn, and you may not discover the problem until the following day. If you have wild animals digging in your yard at night, they are almost certainly seeking either shelter, in the form of an underground burrow, or food, such as the grub worms many animals eat that live in the soil beneath the turf.
Dug-up lawns aren’t a problem just for homeowners who take pride in having lush, green grass or pretty garden beds. Holes in your yard can actually be a hazard, since they create an uneven surface that can trip someone. Worse still, if wild animals dig too deeply near small trees or bushes, they can damage the plant’s roots and destabilize it.
Although rabbits tend to be easy-going creatures, and their appearance may even excite some homeowners, as well as their children, animals like raccoons and skunks are not a wanted addition to your garden. Even though skunks are not aggressive creatures, many homeowners are frightened of them because they carry rabies and, of course, they don’t want to get sprayed. But, why would a skunk spray you? And what tactics can you employ to get discourage these animals from rooting around your property?
Why Do Skunks Spray?
If you have ever had a dog or cat come inside reeking after an encounter with a skunk—or, even worse, if you’ve ever been sprayed yourself—you’ve probably wondered why skunks spray. Well, skunk spray is a defense mechanism. When a skunk feels threatened, the creature will first try to escape. If it feels cornered, a skunk will attempt to threaten and scare off its offender by hissing, stamping its forefeet and raising its tail. If none of these displays works, or if the skunk is a female with babies nearby, it will follow instinct and release a great volume of strongly odorous liquid. Once you or your pet has been sprayed by a skunk, the strong smell is notoriously hard to get rid of.
Since skunks spray, dig holes in yards and are primary carriers of the rabies virus, most homeowners consider them unwelcome visitors. Skunks that visit your yard and dig in the grass are likely seeking out grubs, worms and other insects to eat. Skunk foraging activity often increases in the fall, when temperatures start dropping and these and other animals start trying to fatten up for the long winter months ahead. Similarly, skunks and other animals also show increased foraging in the spring, when the weather starts warming up and food sources become more plentiful and accessible once again.
One way to avoid getting sprayed by a skunk is by making sure that you don’t frighten it, especially when it’s sleeping during the day. But where do skunks live? Unfortunately, skunks like to inhabit many areas that we and our children often visit. They like to live under decks, in garages and in old holes that may have been left behind by other creatures. Repelling skunks can often be a better option than avoiding them altogether.
Repellent products available at home improvement and gardening stores often contain foul-smelling ingredients that can deter skunks and other wild animals from foraging in your yard. When watered into the grass, these products’ strong scents make it difficult for animals to smell the grubs and other tasty treats they’re seeking. Ammonia and citrus peels may also be effective in repelling skunks thanks to their strong, pungent aromas. If you have a sensitive nose, however, certain products might also make it unpleasant for you to spend time in your yard, and ammonia must always be used with care, since it can harm any plants that it comes into contact with, either directly or through the soil.
One of the most effective ways to keep skunks away is to erect a fence with no gaps or holes around the entire perimeter of your yard. Skunks are not good climbers, so a well-constructed barrier should keep them out.
Along with skunks, raccoons are primary carriers of rabies, a dangerous virus transmitted through a bite that can infect other mammals, including dogs, cats and even humans. The good news is that it is exceedingly rare for people to die of rabies, since close encounters between people and wild animals are rare. Also, if you act quickly, there are effective treatments available in the rare case that someone is bitten by a rabid animal. Still, it is important to know what to do if you see a raccoon in your yard or elsewhere on your property.
What To Do If You See A Raccoon In Your Yard
If you spot a raccoon in your outdoor spaces, you should follow the universally-accepted advice from wildlife experts and avoid approaching the creature. If you’re concerned that a raccoon might have rabies, look for telltale signs like wet, foamy discharge coming from the animal’s mouth or eyes and wet, matted hair on its face. Raccoons with rabies will seem disoriented and move in a staggering, wandering manner, and will make repeated strange, high-pitched noises. If you see a raccoon displaying these types of behaviors, it is important to call wildlife control or even the police right away, since rabid raccoons can be dangerous for pets and other animals.
Fortunately, raccoons are not typically aggressive toward people. Even if they aren’t rabid, these animals can still transmit other infectious diseases to people and their pets, like roundworm and leptospirosis, through their feces and urine. They can also make a tremendous mess if they get into your garbage bins, strewing trash around as they search for food. Like many other larger uninvited guests, raccoons can carry fleas and ticks into your yard, leading to other pests problems. For these and a variety of other reasons, raccoons aren’t something most people want hanging around their yards.
If you see raccoons hanging around your yard or garbage bins, it means there’s something on your property that the raccoons want, and almost always, that’s food. So if you want to know how to keep raccoons off your roof and property, you can limit the animals’ access to the food they seek, and they’ll most likely move on and look elsewhere. Keep your garbage bins behind closed doors if possible, such as in your garage, and take steps to get rid of grubs and other natural food sources that raccoons love. Which leads us to the next question: how do you get rid of grubs?
How To Get Rid Of Grubs
Since grubs are a major reason raccoons, skunks and other wild animals are attracted to your lawn, if you want to stop these animals from digging up your yard, you need to know how to get rid of them. Grubs can also damage grass directly by feeding on the roots, which can deprive the grass of important nutrients and result in ugly brown patches, so getting rid of grubs will improve the appearance and health of your grass in several ways.
If you want to know how to get rid of grubs, first you have to know how to identify them. Grubs are the larvae of various types of beetles, both large and small. That means that grubs themselves can be small, about a half-inch long and a quarter-inch in diameter, or surprisingly large (think the length and width of your thumb, or sometimes even larger—yikes!). Whether they’re small, large or any size in between, most grubs have fat, banded, C-shaped bodies in a semi-translucent shade of white, yellow or gray. Most also have brown or dark-gray heads, six small legs clustered together close to the head and the rest of their curved bodies extending beyond that.
To eliminate grubs from your yard or garden, you can try natural approaches, such as adding nematodes or milky spore to the grass or soil. Nematodes are living organisms—microscopic parasites that enter grubs’ bodies and release bacteria that kills them. Milky spore creates milky disease, essentially an unfavorable bacterial environment in the soil that makes it inhospitable to grubs. Both milky spore and nematodes are appealing options for homeowners who want to avoid using chemicals on their lawns, but do be forewarned that if your yard has lots of grubs, it can take several years for either of these remedies to become established enough to kill off the larvae.
As with other insect larvae, grubs grow from eggs, which need water to survive. Thus, another natural, low-impact option for eliminating grubs from your yard is to take advantage of natural weather conditions by not watering your grass for at least a month in the heat of summer. Creating drought conditions in your yard will help to kill off grubs in the following year. Your grass will also go dormant, of course, but it should revive when you start watering again or when autumn rains arrive. This method works best in naturally hotter, drier areas and won’t work as well in cooler or wetter regions.
A quicker option is to eliminate grubs using chemical products designed either to kill off existing larvae or prevent future generations. There are several issues with this approach, however. Using harsh chemicals in your yard will kill off all kinds of insects, including beneficial ones. Chemicals can also pose a threat to anyone who spends time in the yard, including children and pets.
So, are there other options to prevent animals from digging in your yard?
How To Stop Animals From Digging Holes In Yard
There are a few tips and tricks for keeping skunks and other animals out of your yard so you can go back to having a beautiful, green lawn, including:
- Eliminate food sources around your property. Take steps to eliminate grubs from your yard in order to limit this food source that draws several types of animal pests. Seal off garbage cans tightly or store them in your garage. Finally, make sure you bring all pet food and water bowls inside at night or empty them before you head to bed.
- Erect a good fence around the entire perimeter of your yard and inspect it regularly to make sure animals haven’t tunneled underneath it, creating pathways for themselves and other critters to enter.
- If you have a vegetable garden or if you have trees or other plants that bear fruit or nuts, keep the ground clear of any fallen food that may be drawing animals like skunks and raccoons to your yard.
- Strong lights can serve as effective skunk repellent at night since these animals are nocturnal and operate mostly in the dark.
One of the most effective ways to stop animals from digging holes in your lawn at night is by calling in a wildlife control expert who can remove these creatures and relocate them to an area that will make for a better home and then take measures to close future entryways to keep these animals away going forward.
ABC Can Protect Your Lawn From Pests
Homeowners often find that keeping larger pests from damaging their lawn requires the help of a professional. The experts at ABC Home & Commercial Services are highly knowledgeable in wildlife control and are experienced in humane methods for trapping wild animals like skunks and raccoons then removing them from your property. With ABC’s help, you won’t have to worry about damage to your lawn or having an unwelcome encounter with one of these larger animal visitors.