Holes in My Yard! What Caused Them?

“Every spring and into summer, the calls come from exasperated homeowners. ‘Something dug up my yard over night! Went to bed with everything fine, and this morning it looks like somebody blasted my entire yard!'”

The culprit could be an Armadillo, or Dasypus novemcinctus, 9-banded armadillo. This critter, originally from ‘south of the border’, arrived in Alabama in the 1940s via Mobile County. Now they are found in most of the state, except for a few areas of rocky, mountainous regions in northeast AL. Here’s what you need to know to recognize and prevent armadillo damage in the garden.

armadillo damage in the garden

Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus). Photo courtesy of FightBugs.com

Mostly nocturnal (active at night), they have strong front legs adapted for digging the insects, grubs, and earthworms that are favorite foods. While these critters are found in both urban and rural environments, they are especially attracted to moist soil in the midst of dry conditions. Translation – we water our lawns and gardens when rainfall isn’t sufficient. Grubs, earthworms and many insects are attracted to moisture. Therefore, if we’re watering our lawns or flower beds, that moisture attracts the very organisms that armadillos seek out for dinner. Your neighbor doesn’t water his or her lawn, and you do, imagine where the ‘dillo is headed. It’s the basic ‘follow the food source’ cycle of life, and we may be inadvertently hosting this particular feast!

What to do if your yard is targeted by an armadillo? And how do you know if it’s an armadillo rather than a skunk, raccoon, or other critter doing the damage? The armadillo, and many times there’s only one, digs a hole about 3” wide and 5” deep with powerful front claws, uprooting flowers and other vegetation in its quest for grubs, earthworms, etc.

Armadillo damage in the garden

Armadillo damage. Photo courtesy of WEBBCON Wildlife Removal & Exclusion 770-560-4679.

Removing the food source is an option; therefore products labelled for grub control are often employed in the process. However, these materials can take a couple of weeks to be effective, during which the armadillo could continue to feed.

Live-trapping the armadillo, while considered effective, requires a bit of patience as these creatures have poor vision, prompting the suggestion of attaching “wings” to the live trap. Extension publication ANR-773 includes a diagram of the set-up process.

No toxicants, fumigants or repellents are currently available for armadillo control. However, most armadillo appearances are cyclic in nature, appearing one year then disappearing for several seasons in a row.

Contact your local Extension office if you have additional questions or issues.

By Sallie Lee, Urban Regional Extension Agent, Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  Contact Sallie at leesall@aces.edu.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. ACES is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce.  Educational programs of ACES serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or national origin.

Alabama Extension

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities and answers home-gardeners' questions each week on Birmingham Gardening Today.

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