Animal Digging Holes Around Foundation

Animal Digging Holes Around Foundation

animal digging holes around foundation

Mice, voles, moles, chipmunks, ground squirrels, woodchucks, and other tunneling creatures are doing what comes naturally to stay safe and warm. However, those goals usually don’t mesh with human goals — which is to keep your home intact and free of animal-borne diseases. 

Crawl spaces are especially susceptible to animal invasion because creatures don’t have to dig down more than a few feet to access them.  And if your crawl space entry is on the outside and does not have a tightly fitting door, you could find yourself hosting stray cats, raccoons, or even skunks.

The first and most obvious damage is the diseases these critters bring with them. The air in your basement or crawl space does not stay under your home.  Your HVAC system circulates the air throughout the building, which means you and your family are breathing in animal residue. If you have encapsulation or a vapor barrier in your crawl space, these animals may destroy some of this- which increases the humidity and odors that enter your home. This not only costs you the replacement of the materials, but also has an impact on your utility bills.

Less obvious, but also of great consequence, is the damage these pests are doing to your home’s foundation.  Animals digging into the dirt around your footings can lead to settling foundations, which can be costly to repair.

A pier and beam foundation offers a dark and cool habitat that is attractive and ideal for many critters to call home. Strange sounds coming from beneath your floors is a telltale sign that animals such as raccoons or rats are living under your foundation. Maybe you simply noticed some disruption around your foundation and now you’re concerned that something is trying to make a nest beneath your home.

Many of the wildlife species in our area create den sites by burrowing under structures. These include raccoons, opossums, skunks, groundhogs, foxes, rabbits, chipmunks, and coyotes. Decks, sheds, porches, stoops, hot tubs and foundations are all areas that these animals like to call home. The removal of the supportive material can undermine the structure and cause cracking and settling. Burrows along the foundation can create drainage issues that could result in water leaks in your basement.

If you have ever been awakened by the overpowering odor of skunk, it is likely that a burrow will be found under part of your home adjacent to the foundation. It is rare for an animal to gain access into the basement or crawlspace but it has been known to happen. This does require an additional structural problem with the foundation. Bay windows that overhang the foundation are the most common source of ingress into the interior.

Whatever the case may be, now is the time to act.

While it’s common for animals to dig under your foundation, there are steps you can take to prevent it from happening or to mitigate damage once they’ve already made their way in.


1. Your first step should be to remove or eliminate the pests.  For mice, traps are usually the easiest and most reliable. You can use poisons, but these can have heartbreaking consequences if you’re a pet owner.  If you have larger rodents like rats or squirrels, you should contact a reliable exterminator.  These animals carry diseases that are communicable to humans and should be left to professionals.

If you have cats, raccoons, or skunks, you’ll want to explore extraction services, instead of extermination.  Look for a contractor who uses humane methods for removing and relocating the animals to a more suitable environment.  For a list of these providers, you can contact:

2. Once you have the invaders removed, have the entry points sealed to prevent the situation from reoccurring.  If your crawl space entry doesn’t fit well and seal tightly, you need to replace it. Any open vents should be sealed off, and cracks should be repaired and filled.  Not sure how to do these things yourself? A service providerinstalls steel doors with insulation, airtight entry covers, and does crack repair.  They can also seal any open vents you may have and replace a damaged vapor barrier.  

3. You should also make your home a less appealing place for critters to live.  Keep lids tightly closed on garbage cans; this may require weighing them down or using a locking trash bin.  If you store any non-perishable bulk foods or pet food in your garage, keep it in airtight containers to discourage pests.  Clean up the debris around your bird feeders regularly, and do not leave out food for stray animals. If you are softhearted and don’t like the thought of strays going hungry, the best thing you can do is call your local no-kill shelter and report them. (No judgments here- both of my dogs are strays-turned-rescues.)

4. Have your basement, crawl space, and foundation evaluated for damage done by the pests.  If you are experiencing some issues with sticking doors, have found cracks in the foundation, or other signs of foundation trouble, use our free symptom checker for more information.

animal digging holes around foundation
There was here an animal digging holes around foundation. In this case it is a rat burrow.

Using Castor Oil Against An Animal Digging Holes Around Foundation

Burrowing animals are the prime suspects when a homeowner discovers tunnels and holes in the yard. Many kinds of small animals, such as moles, voles, chipmunks and rats, make holes in the ground. Some, such as moles, create complex tunnel systems, while others, such as rats, dig burrows in which to hide.

Also, how do I get rid of burrowing animals in my yard? Combine Dawn dish soap, castor oil and water in a bottle. Soak the areas where moles and other burrowing animals are taking over. You might not be able to get rid of them in one go. So repeat this treatment week after week until they are gone.

Utitlization Of Tracking Powder

 I decided to use a tracking powder, a dust that adheres to the rodent’s fur and paws. Then when the animal grooms itself, it ingests a lethal dose. With tracking powders, it is important to keep non-target animals like dogs and cats away from those areas where the treatment is applied or where they could potentially find poisoned pests. In this case, I applied the powder directly into the burrow hole and then covered it to prevent non-target animals from reaching the powder. I told the homeowner to contact me if he saw any new burrowing activity. However, I’m not expecting a call anytime soon. Once this tracking powder sticks to the animal, it’s game over. Whatever burrowing creature is digging around the home — whether vole, mole, or shrew — it won’t be digging around much longer.

Signs of Animal Activity

If an animal has been digging under your home’s foundation, you’ll notice some disruption around the site. Displaced earth or landscaping and animal sightings in the area are common signs. If you have any concerns that animals are digging beneath your foundation, take a slow walk around the home’s perimeter, checking for any disruption.

animal digging holes around foundation
After a short walk around the foundation, I found some digging. I am almost sure that it is a rodent.

It’s relatively obvious if you have intruders in your basement or home- you’ll see rodent droppings or find shredded pieces of nesting material.  But if you have a crawl space you don’t enter regularly, it may be better to check from the perimeter of the house. This is also a good idea in the fall, when animals begin making preparations for the winter.  Prevention is easily the best way to manage pests!

Walk the perimeter of your home, and observe the soil for signs of digging or disturbed dirt. Patches of grass may be torn from the ground. If you step on the lawn and sink a bit, it’s likely tunnels; these may not go under the foundation, but they indicate you have a burrowing animal in the yard.  You should also closely inspect the foundation for any cracks or gaps. These provide an entryway for insects, rodents, AND water seepage. These cracks are early warning signs that your foundation may already have damage and should be evaluated.

Here are some other signs of animal activity to look for that will help you narrow down the possible suspects.

  • If you have noticed digging under your deck or porch, small patches of torn-up grass, and a distinct odor, it’s most likely a skunk. Skunks burrow under structures and often feed on grubs and insects.
  • If there are noises in your attic, you probably have squirrels or raccoons nesting. Raccoons will come out at night; squirrels most often during the day. Young raccoons often sound like puppies and can be very vocal.
  • If you have long underground burrows in your grass and your garden, and have noticed flowers are eaten, chances are a woodchuck − also known as a groundhog or whistle-pig − has made your lawn his home. Smaller burrows and disappearing flower bulbs may indicate chipmunks or moles.

Those chipmunks and groundhogs might be cute and entertaining, but they can do some serious damage. According to Nora Kwochka at Bobbex Deer and Animal Repellents, “An average groundhog excavates 700 pounds of dirt for one den. They may have four or five dens in their territory.”

Groundhog damage may not be limited to the yard. Groundhogs also burrow under houses, especially those that are built on slab foundation.

“Given the speed at which it digs and the amount of dirt it can excavate, the groundhog can do tremendous damage to the underside of a house by loosening the ground on which the structure is built,” according to Havahart pest control.

The Wisconsin Humane Society says that the species most encountered in basements in the Milwaukee County area are gray squirrels, eastern chipmunks, house sparrows and European starlings.  “They may come in through the furnace system, dryer vent, a broken door or window, or a door or window that has been left open.”

How to Keep Animals Out of Your Foundation

If your initial evaluation reveals that animals are attempting to dig beneath your foundation, don’t panic because there’s still time to act. Take the following steps to prevent them from getting in:

Fill existing holes

This is the first step to keeping animals out. Any holes around your home’s foundation should be refilled with soil and tamped down so it is solid and not loose.

Holes in the yard can be filled, but it is pointless to do so until the offending animal has been trapped and removed from the area. It is also just a temporary fix unless you install an exclusion fence or take care of the things that drew the animal to your yard in the first place. Animals like readily available sources of food, so some may be drawn to gardens while others may be after the insects and worms that enjoy living in lush grass. Some animals come to your property because pet food or garbage isn’t sealed up well at night. These are easy fixes, and ones that can make a big difference in how often you have to remove nuisance wildlife.

The holes next to the house, however, can provide a different problem. Every home is different, but a hole along your foundation is never a good thing. It might not seem like a woodchuck or armadillo, or any burrowing creature would be able to damage your home, but digging is what these animals do, and if their burrows become extensive enough, your foundation may be at risk. Or, if a wild animal has a burrow system under a deck or shed, that animal could be chewing on support beams buried in the ground.

Treat the area to deter animals. 

There are chemical products on the market that make wild animals avoid areas due to their strange or offensive scent. Do some research into these products to determine if they will resolve your problem. Those with pets may wish to avoid, as they can affect friendly animals as well as unfriendly ones.

Remove shrubbery and landscaping obscuring burrows. 

Removing all greenery from your yard is unnecessary, but you might want to trim back bushes that cover the area where your foundation connects to the earth. This prevents animals from avoiding your notice, and helps you spot additional problem areas more easily.

Reinforce the area. 

Adding cement, patio blocks or trench screening to the area, after it’s been completely cleared of wildlife, will help ensure that nothing digs into it again. Landscaping to prevent animal digging doesn’t have to look ugly, and can prevent huge repair costs if done in a timely manner.

Eliminate Sources Of Food

Just as we did in this article, about animals that burrow inside concrete structures, we will again address the importance of eliminating sources of food near the foundation, as a method to keep animals outside it.

Most animals seek shelter near or in a home because there’s an available food source: a garden, pet food, bird food, or garbage in garbage cans. No matter how cute or helpless these animals look when they’re peeking out from under your deck, “you absolutely, positively should not feed them!” the WHS says.

  • Protect your garden with a fence. “A chicken-wire fence will work nicely,” says Kwochka.  “It needs to be at least 3.5 feet high and buried 1 foot into the ground with the fence angled away from the garden.”
  • Use garbage cans with lids that seal tightly. Weigh down the lids with bricks or other heavy objects, if needed, to keep animals from getting under them.
  • Feed the birds, not the forest. Use a bird feeder with a seed catcher tray, and sweep up up seeds and hulls frequently.
  • Keep pet food indoors. Don’t feed your pets in the garage or on the deck. Bring the food bowl inside after giving your pet a reasonable amount of time to eat. Don’t leave food out overnight.

Disadvantage Of Using Poison

If the animal eats enough poison to kill it, it will most likely die deep in one of its tunnels. The end result is a horrible smell of decay around your home, and the only way to eliminate the odor is to find the body and remove it. When an animal has dug along a foundation or under a deck, this project is almost impossible. There is always a chance the animal won’t eat enough poison to die, either. In this case, the critter will become sick and once it recovers, it will be much less likely to fall for poison bait a second time.

Removing Dead Animals

Occasionally an animal will perish inside its burrow. This can cause an overbearing noxious smell in your home. If the the deceased is a skunk, the odor can penetrate your entire home and will persist for weeks if not removed.

You need to hire a service for removing dead animals from under structures.

After the removal of the resident animals, a service provider can install buried screening to animal proof the area.

They dig out the area of concern and install an L shaped screen into the bottom of the trench with the foot pointed outward. The screen is then anchored to the structure along the top of the screen. At this time the trench is back-filled and leveled out.

Regarding the materials utilized, normally it can be a good quality, heavy gauge, galvanized wire mesh. The screen will resist rusting or degradation, thus providing many years of protection.

How do I stop animals from digging under my house?

Attach galvanized fencing or quarter-inch-mesh hardware cloth over openings that pests can crawl beneath and bury the lower edge at least 6 inches below ground to prevent animals from burrowing under it. Use metal-mesh fencing behind a decorative lattice to seal spaces through which animals can squeeze.

Which Animals Can Be Found Digging Holes Around Fundation?

animal digging holes around foundation
animal digging holes around foundation


Moles are insectivores that tunnel through the ground searching for earthworms and insects such as centipedes, primarily during fall and early spring. Moles don’t eat plants, although they may damage plants by tunneling under them. Feeding tunnels are just beneath the soil surface, but these 6- to 8-inch-long, gray or dark brown mammals dig extensive, deep tunnel systems in which to live and reproduce. The telltale sign of moles is a series of conical dirt mounds. Tamp down the dirt hills and tunnel ridges to see whether the mole reopens them. This demonstrates where the active runs are located. Usually, only one or two moles are active in any given area.


Voles, also called field mice, are small rodents about 5 inches long that look like mice, but with shorter tails. They eat the roots of grasses, perennials, shrubs and trees. They also eat seeds and bulbs and will girdle the bark of trees. They multiply rapidly and colonize an area with networks of surface tunnels. Clues to vole activity include clean-edged, golf-ball-size holes around the base of plants. Their tunnel entrances are left open, not plugged, so you will find pathways leading to small, tidy, round holes.


Gophers are herbivores, eating the roots of trees, shrubs and perennials. They also consume flower bulbs. They’re known for pulling plants under the ground and into their burrows. Unlike moles, they don’t have webbed feet for “swimming” through the soil, but they dig similar-looking tunnels. The location of the damage is key to identification. Gopher mounds and tunnels are made around the plants they are eating, rather than scattered across a wide area like mole tunnels. Gophers come to the surface of the soil at an angle, creating crescent-shaped dirt mounds. They plug the center of the mound with fresh soil after each foray out to feed, rather than leaving it open.


Rats are attracted by what they can find to eat in your yard, such as fallen fruit, nuts and birdseed. Some rats, particularly the Norway rat, dig burrows in the ground in which to live and escape from predators. They line the burrows with shredded paper or other fibrous material, so if you notice gnawed materials outdoors, rats may be the culprits. Rat burrows may have an escape tunnel that surfaces in another part of the yard. Common places for burrows are in or under compost piles or under garbage cans.

Other Suspects

Numerous animals dig holes and make tunnels. You may be seeing the work of chipmunks, squirrels, skunks, raccoons or shrews. Snakes also live in ground holes. Using an online wildlife key that leads you through descriptions of the damage is another way to discover which animal is making holes in your yard. Chipmunk holes, for example, are dime-sized, and you’ll see chipmunks around during the day. Skunks dig their holes under sheds, porches and other dark places.

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