Mulch serves a functional and decorative purpose in the landscape, retaining soil moisture and keeping weeds at bay while enhancing the appearance of the area. A number of animals, including rabbits, dogs, cats, chipmunks, skunks, squirrels, muskrats, moles and woodchucks dig into mulched flowerbeds, spreading mulch all over and damaging contained flowers. Adopt a preventive strategy to keep the pests from damaging your garden and leaving the mess for you to clean.
Investigate the type of pest digging into your mulched beds. Look for clues such as foot prints, feces or damage on nearby plants to identify the culprit. For instance, tiny bite marks on the leaves of plants could indicate a rabbit problem, while chipmunks, squirrels and voles cause shallow burrows without mounds.
Apply a taste or scent repellent around the problem area to help ward off the particular animal. Commercial repellents such as pepper sprays and predator urine deter the critters and keep them from digging your mulch or flowers. Reapply the repellent frequently during the rainy season to prevent it from becoming ineffective.
Fence your garden or mulched flowerbeds to bar entry to the animals. Use chicken or mesh wire with openings no larger than 1 inch to prevent the pests from entering. Bury the fence at least 24 inches high and 8 to 12 inches underground, to keep the animals from jumping over or digging under. Inspect the fence frequently for holes or gaps and repair immediately.
Scare the animals away from your mulched beds. Place a scarecrow strategically in the garden or hang aluminum pie plates or strips from branches of trees. Install motion-activated lights or alarm systems around the area that set off automatically when tread upon. Alternatively, set timers on the systems to turn on during the time of day or night when human activity in the garden is the least.
Train your pets if they are causing the damage. Take your dog for frequent walks to help expend surplus energy that is otherwise redirected at digging. Make a sandpit in a corner of your yard and train your canine to dig there by placing treats and his favorite toys there.
Change soft mulch in your yard to a coarse, hard mulch such as rocks, crushed stone or gravel that most animals find hard to dig into.
Place chunks of soap, human hair, cayenne pepper or garlic in old pantyhose or mesh bags and suspend near the flowerbeds to deter pests.