If you like to have a well-kept lawn in pristine condition, there is nothing worse than waking up and holes have appeared in your lawn. What is digging holes in my lawn at night? you may ask. There are loads of potential candidates who have been ruining your morning and making your lawn an eyesore, so we are going to see if we can help you discover who that culprit may be. By looking at the size and the shape of the holes, we should have a good idea of who or what is creating small holes in your lawn overnight; some of them are obvious but there are a few little blighters that can ruin your lawn that you may not have been aware of. Another factor to consider is the time of the year as different seasons will mean that different animals are active, some of them may be laying eggs while others may be looking for something to eat.

A Picture of a hole in a lawn approx. 2 inches in diameter.
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What is Digging Small Holes in My Lawn at Night?

There are a variety of animals and insects that can create holes in your lawn and some of them do so for different reasons. In the UK, chances are that the holes that have appeared overnight are caused by moles, foxes, badgers, or squirrels but there are other animals and insects that could be the problem.

Nighttime Lawn Invaders – Garden Doctor

Once you have an idea of what size and shape of the hole is caused by what animal and what time of year they are active, you will then know what to do next. Below are some indicators of what animal is digging holes in your lawn at night:

Time of Year

The time of year is an important factor to consider when you have holes that appear in your lawn overnight. For example, foxes may dig holes in your garden in the autumn or early spring looking for grubs and earthworms.

Grubs and earthworms are closer to the surface in wetter conditions meaning that they are easier to find when the ground is softer.

Shape

The shape of the hole is often a major clue in determining what is causing the holes in your lawn. Some pests and insects leave conical mounds and others will leave a mess.

For example, an earthworm will leave a small 2cm mound of soil around a hole whereas a mole will leave a huge mound the shape of a mini volcano.

Size

The size of the hole will give you an idea of what is digging in your garden and it will also rule out some of the possible culprits, as a hole 1 foot across is not likely to have been left by a bird that is plucking up earthworms.

For example, a large hole like that could be an indication of badgers beginning to excavate a new sett whereas tiny holes may be caused by insects that are emerging into the world after hatching from their eggs.

Footprints

Another telltale sign of who or what is causing the digging holes in your lawn is the footprints that may be left behind.

Have a good look at the size and shape of the foot/ pawprints and see if that will help you with your identification.

Animals That Dig Holes in Lawns UK

There are various potential culprits for small holes appearing in lawns overnight and to be honest, if it is something small like an earthworm or hatching insect, you may not even notice. If it is birds that are digging in your lawn, most are only active during the day so we are going to look at some of the other animals that may be responsible.

1 – Moles

Moles play a crucial role in aerating the soil and controlling potential pest populations. However, their relentless digging can cause havoc in lawns, and large holes appear in your garden when they dig. Molehills are created when a mole is constructing new tunnels or repairing damaged ones and needs somewhere to get rid of the waste soil.

Freshly Dug Molehill
Freshly Dug Molehill

Time of Year Moles Are Most Active

Moles are especially active during specific times of the year. Their digging and tunnelling activities peak during the wetter conditions of autumn, late winter and spring. The softer soil during these seasons facilitates easier movement and hunting for their primary diet of bugs and larvae.

What Do Molehills Look Like?

The most evident sign of a mole’s presence is the distinctive molehill. These mounds closely resemble mini volcanoes, spanning approximately 1 & ½ feet in diameter. At the peak of these formations is a small opening, measuring between 2 to 3 inches, which serves as an exit for the excavated soil as moles construct or mend their tunnels.

What Do Mole Footprints Look Like?

While moles spend most of their time underground, on rare occasions when they do venture above, they might leave behind footprints. These prints are unique, showcasing the mole’s broad, spade-like forefeet adapted for digging. However, spotting mole footprints can be a challenge given their predominantly subterranean lifestyle.

What Can Be Done to Stop Moles Digging in the Garden at Night?

Addressing a mole infestation requires a blend of patience and strategy. While they are notoriously difficult to manage, to stop moles digging in your lawn, several humane interventions can be employed such as traps and vibration devices. These range from natural repellents to barriers that deter moles from specific areas, ensuring that both gardens and moles coexist harmoniously.


2 – Foxes

Foxes, known for their scavenging habits, frequently roam gardens in search of sustenance. Their diet isn’t limited to leftovers in rubbish bins; when conditions are right, foxes will often dig in lawns, hunting for earthworms, grubs, and other hidden treats.

Fox Hole at The Bottom of a Garden
Fox Hole at The Bottom of a Garden

Time of Year Foxes are Most Active

Foxes are active in the UK all year round but they can become particularly problematic when the soil is moist and soft. During such conditions, earthworms and grubs migrate closer to the surface. A determined fox can devastate a garden and make lots of holes in a lawn overnight, driven by the allure of these easily accessible morsels.

What Do Fox Holes in a Garden Look Like?

The aftermath of a fox’s digging spree is often mistaken for canine handiwork. The holes foxes create resemble those dug by dogs. Using their paws, foxes persistently scrape away the soil in their quest, continuing until they unearth their desired prey.

What Do Fox Footprints Look Like?

Fox footprints are distinctive, with four toes and a triangular pad. The prints are often found leading to or from their digging sites. Recognizing these footprints can help in identifying the presence of a fox and differentiating it from other potential garden visitors.

What Can Be Done to Stop Foxes Digging in the Garden at Night?

Foxes, while enchanting, can be a nuisance for gardeners everywhere. To deter these creatures from turning your garden into their personal buffet, consider exploring preventive strategies such as strong odours they will hate or some motion-activated devices to deter foxes.


3 – Squirrels

Squirrels, the agile rodents often seen darting up trees, have a significant presence in the UK, with the grey squirrel being classified as vermin. These creatures are a common reason for small holes in lawns appearing overnight.

Squirrel Hole in Lawn
Squirrel Hole in Lawn

Time of Year Squirrels Are Most Active

Unlike nocturnal creatures, squirrels are diurnal, meaning they’re active during the day. If you’re an early bird, you might spot them at work around dawn, especially during the seasons when they’re busy stashing away and retrieving their nutty treasures.

What Do Squirrel Holes in a Garden Look Like?

The handiwork of a squirrel is quite distinct. Their digging efforts result in holes that are relatively shallow, typically measuring 1 to 2 inches in depth. These holes are smaller than those created by foxes. After burying their cache, squirrels often leave behind a trace of their activity by backfilling the hole with some loose soil. Furthermore, squirrels are not active at night so if you suspect squirrels and you are an early riser, you are likely to catch them in the act at dawn.

What Do Squirrel Footprints Look Like?

Squirrels, with their nimble feet, might leave behind footprints around their digging sites. These prints, showcasing their petite paws and sharp claws, can be a hint towards their recent activities in the garden.

What Can Be Done to Prevent Squirrels from Digging in the Garden?

Managing squirrel activity in the garden requires a mix of observation and preventive measures. While they can be quite persistent in their endeavours, there are various strategies to deter them. From using natural squirrel repellents to creating barriers or distractions, there are ways to ensure that your garden remains undisturbed while allowing squirrels to coexist in the vicinity.


4 – Badgers

Often hidden from human sight, badgers are nocturnal creatures. Their presence is usually felt rather than seen, with many only encountering them as unfortunate casualties on the road. Badgers are one of the main culprits for making holes appear in lawns overnight!

Badger Hole at the Bottom of My Garden
Badger Hole at the Bottom of My Garden

Time of Year Badgers Are Most Active

Primarily nocturnal, badgers are active all year round and most active during the night. Their secretive nature means that their digging and foraging activities predominantly occur under the veil of darkness. Badgers are also particularly fond of tulips so if holes are appearing in your lawn around the time of your tulips going missing, badgers are likely to be the cause!

What Do Badger Holes in a Garden Look Like?

Badgers create three distinctive types of holes in gardens, each serving a different purpose and providing clues to their activities.

  • Foraging Holes: These holes are a result of badgers searching for food. They are typically broad and shallow, often resembling the holes dug by gardeners when planting bulbs. Driven by their appetite for earthworms, grubs, and particularly garden bulbs like tulips, badgers dig these holes to access their underground feast.
  • Latrine Pits: Badgers also establish latrines, which are small pits where they deposit their droppings. These pits are deeper and more cylindrical in shape, distinctly different from the wider foraging holes. The presence of these latrine pits not only indicates badger activity but also marks their territorial boundaries.
  • Entrance to Badger Sett: The most significant of the holes, serves as the entrance to the badger’s underground home or sett. These entrances are larger and more tunnel-like, leading to a complex network of chambers and tunnels where badgers live and rear their young. The presence of a sett entrance is a clear indication of an established badger residence in or near the garden.

What Do Badger Footprints Look Like?

The footprints of badgers are quite distinctive, showcasing five toes and sharp claws. These prints can often be found leading to or from their digging sites, providing further evidence of their nocturnal visits.

What Can Be Done to Prevent Badgers from Digging in the Garden?

Addressing the issue of badgers in the garden requires a blend of understanding and preventive measures. While it’s challenging to completely deter these determined creatures, strategies ranging from protective barriers around plants to natural repellents can help in minimizing their impact on your garden.


5 – Ants

Ants are known to make tiny holes in lawns overnight. On appearance, they look like molehills but they are 1000 times smaller.

Freshly Excavated Ant Hole
Freshly Excavated Ant Hole

Time of Year Ants Are Most Active

Ants are particularly active during the warmer months. Their digging activities become especially pronounced just after a rainfall, making their presence more evident during this period.

What Do Ant Holes in a Garden Look Like?

Ant holes are distinct in their appearance. While they are small, their sheer number makes them easily noticeable. These holes are typically clustered, giving lawns a somewhat pockmarked appearance when ants are in full digging mode. Recognizing these signs can help gardeners address ant-related concerns in their lawns more effectively.

What Do Ant Footprints Look Like?

Given the minuscule size of ants, they don’t leave behind discernible footprints like larger garden visitors. Instead, their presence is primarily marked by the patterns of their excavations and the trails they form as they move in lines, following pheromone paths laid down by scout ants.

What Can Be Done to Prevent Ants from Digging in the Garden?

Managing ants in the garden requires a blend of preventive and reactive measures:

  • Natural Repellents: Certain natural substances, like lemon juice, peppermint oil, or cucumber peels, can deter ants as they dislike their scent. Spreading these around areas of ant activity can help reduce their numbers.
  • Diatomaceous Earth: This is a natural insect killer and can be sprinkled around areas where ants are active. It causes dehydration in ants, leading to their demise.
  • Maintain Lawn Health: A well-maintained lawn can deter ant infestations. Regular mowing, watering, and fertilizing can keep the grass robust and less inviting for ants to dig.
  • Seek Professional Help: If the ant infestation is extensive, it might be worth considering professional pest control services to manage and reduce their population effectively.

Note: Ants can also try and set up a new home inside your compost heap if it is left too dry.


6 – Rabbits

These furry creatures, often seen hopping around fields and gardens, have a natural inclination to dig. Their burrowing habits can sometimes pose challenges for gardeners and rabbits will often dig holes in lawns.

Rabbit Holes in Lawn
Rabbit Holes in Lawn

Time of Year Rabbits Are Most Active

Rabbits are active throughout the year, but their digging activities might intensify during spring and early summer when they are establishing new territories and preparing for their young.

What Do Rabbit Holes in a Garden Look Like?

  • Size and Shape: Rabbit holes are typically round and range from 10 to 15 cm in diameter. They’re just large enough for an adult rabbit to comfortably enter and exit.
  • Tunnels: Unlike some burrowing animals that create a simple hole with minimal tunnelling, rabbits dig a network of tunnels, known as a warren. The entrance hole will lead to these underground tunnels where the rabbits live, rest, and rear their young.
  • Location: Rabbits often choose sloping ground or the base of trees and hedges to dig their holes. These locations offer them some protection and camouflage from potential predators.
  • Surrounding Area: The immediate vicinity of a rabbit hole may have loose soil due to recent digging. You might also notice small piles of excavated earth around the entrance.
  • Droppings: Rabbits frequently leave their droppings near the entrance of their burrows. These are small, round, and dark pellets, and their presence can be a clear sign of rabbit activity in the area.
  • Tracks: In soft soil or mud, you might notice rabbit footprints, which can help confirm the presence of rabbits.

What Do Rabbit Footprints Look Like?

Rabbit footprints are distinctive, with four toes on their front feet and five on their hind feet. A rabbit’s hind footprints are elongated and larger than their front footprints. The presence of these footprints, combined with the characteristic shape of their digging, can confirm their activity in a garden.

What Can Be Done to Prevent Rabbits from Digging in the Garden?

  • Fencing: Installing a rabbit-proof fence around the garden can be an effective deterrent. Ensure the fence is buried at least a foot underground to prevent them from digging under it.
  • Natural Repellents: Spraying scents that rabbits dislike, such as garlic or chilli, can deter them from entering specific areas.
  • Habitat Modification: Reducing the habitat appeal by removing brush piles or long grass where rabbits might hide can make the garden less inviting.
  • Live Trapping: If the rabbit population becomes too problematic, consider live trapping and relocating them to a more suitable environment.

7 – Magpies

Magpies are also well known for digging in lawns but this is usually during the daytime and not at night. Magpies will be searching the lawn for grubs and other tasty insects like leather jackets. 

Magpies Digging in a Lawn
Magpies Digging in a Lawn

Time of Day Magpies Are Most Active

Unlike many other birds, magpies are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. Their foraging activities on lawns are most noticeable in the daylight hours, and they tend to rest or roost as evening approaches.

What Do Magpie Holes in a Lawn Look Like?

Magpies digging in lawns can be quite noticeable as they pull up sections of turf, leaving behind a lawn that appears ragged and torn with a series of shallow, irregularly shaped trenches that might be a few centimetres wide, varying in length. Surrounding these trenches, there’s often a scattering of loose soil, evidence of the magpie’s pecking and probing.

What Do Magpie Footprints Look Like?

Magpies, being birds, don’t leave footprints in the traditional sense. However, their foraging activities can be identified by the characteristic small holes they leave behind, often surrounded by scattered tufts of grass.

What Can Be Done to Prevent Magpies from Digging in the Garden?

  • Deterrents: Reflective objects, like CDs or aluminium foil strips, can be hung around the garden. The reflections can deter magpies from approaching.
  • Netting: Placing bird netting over specific areas of the garden can prevent magpies from accessing and digging in those spots.
  • Provide Alternative Food Sources: Setting up bird feeders with seeds can divert magpies’ attention from the lawn to the feeders.
  • Natural Repellents: Certain scents, like peppermint oil, can be sprayed on lawns to deter magpies.

Conclusion

Holes appearing in your lawn at night can be a real pain and holes in large numbers can be devastating. Holes from earthworms and small insects will not really cause you a problem, it is mammals that are often the real menace and can make even the most pristine of lawns look like a cow field overnight. So, the most likely animal to dig holes in your lawn at night is probably a badger, foxes are known to do it too. Rabbits come out at dusk and Squirrels are active at dawn and during the day but can still cause problems. Molehills and anthills are quite recognisable and magpies are

7 Animals that Dig in Your Lawn - Infographic

Garden Doctor Tips

“Scoop up the loose soil from molehills and use it as part of your potting soil mix!”

“If badgers or foxes are proving a nuisance, it is best to work on keeping them out of the garden altogether!”

“To prevent squirrels from digging up your lawn, make sure that you have an abundance of nuts and seeds available for them to eat!”

“For a great natural deterrent for most mammals, boil some chilli and garlic then blend it and spray over your garden!”

Frequently Asked Questions

What animal makes holes in the lawn?

In the UK, some of the most common causes of unsightly holes in lawns are caused by Foxes, Badgers, Squirrels, Moles, Voles, Ants, Earthworms and Birds such as Magpies and Crows.

Why do holes keep appearing in my lawn?

There are several possible reasons why holes may appear in your lawn, including animals digging for food or shelter, insects or pests, lawn diseases, or soil issues. To determine the cause, it’s important to observe the holes and any other signs of damage, such as footprints, droppings, or damaged plants.

What is tearing up my lawn at night UK?

Animals such as badgers, foxes, rabbits, and hedgehogs may tear up lawns at night in search of food or shelter. To deter these animals, you can try installing physical barriers such as fencing, using deterrents such as motion-activated lights or sprinklers, or removing any potential food sources from your garden.

What is tunnelling under my lawn UK?

Tunnelling under a lawn in the UK may be caused by animals such as moles, voles, or rats, or by soil issues such as drainage problems or tree roots. To determine the cause, it’s important to observe any signs of animal activity, such as raised ridges or mounds of soil, or to inspect the soil for signs of compaction or other issues.

What insects make holes in lawns?

Insects such as chafer grubs, leatherjackets, and ants may make holes in a lawn by feeding on the grass roots. These insects can cause significant damage to a lawn if left untreated, leading to thinning or bare patches.

What do mole holes look like in your yard?

Mole holes in a yard can appear as raised ridges of soil or as circular or semi-circular mounds of soil. The tunnels themselves are usually quite shallow and may be visible as raised lines in the grass. Mole activity can cause damage to lawns by uprooting grass and creating uneven surfaces.

What Makes 2-inch holes in the ground?

In the UK squirrels are often the culprit. A tell-tale sign of squirrels digging in your garden is that the 2-inch holes are usually backfilled with loose soil.

Do hedgehogs make holes in lawns?

No, hedgehogs are not diggers and are extremely unlikely to make holes in your lawn. Depending on the size and shape of the hole, it could be anything from foxes and squirrels to badgers and moles.


Author

Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.


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