Creating and maintaining a beautiful lawn takes lots of work and sometimes lots of money, so seeing it marred by holes from ground- and burrow-dwelling animals, like moles and chipmunks, can be disheartening and reason for some homeowners to take action. Before deciding how to approach your problem, however, you'll need to know how to tell a mole hole from a chipmunk hole so you'll know what you're dealing with. Even if you're the welcoming, live-and-let-live type who plans to let the little critters have their way with your yard, you may simply appreciate knowing what you're seeing out there.
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How to Identify a Mole
If you do see a mole, it will no doubt grab your attention because its look is distinctive. About 4 to 7 inches in length, it has velvety, dark fur covering a cylindrical body and an elongated head with tiny eyes, no ears, and a pointed pink snout. Light-colored, paddle-shaped front feet with long claws do their work. Although believed by many to be blind, moles can actually see, but they live their lives almost entirely in the dark, below-ground tunnels and burrows created using their expert digging ability.
Identifying Mole Holes
Mole holes, more commonly referred to as "molehills," are often described as looking like mounded "dirt volcanoes" — easily spotted piles of loose soil that along with ridges from the tunnel excavated just below ground surface can seriously mar the look of a lawn. Although moles sometimes come above ground through these molehills, the hills are actually created by a digging mole who pushes soil to the surface to create an earthworm and insect food source for itself. Moles do not eat vegetation, but the ridges they create when tunneling kill grass by damaging the roots.
Even with strong evidence of mole activity on your property, it's unlikely that you'll ever see one. A mole will surface to avoid an underground obstacle or to search for a new food source when a drought has caused ground hardening and depletion of the soil's invertebrate population.
How to Identify a Chipmunk
Identifying the chipmunk itself is easy. They're diurnal creatures, meaning that they're out and about during daylight hours and are easy to see. Chipmunks are small, measuring around 5 inches in length and weighing less than a pound. Even though they dart around rapidly, they're easy to spot in reddish-brown coats tinged with gray and buff and prominent gray, black, and white stripes down their backs. They also make a lot of noise, but their rapid chirps and squeaks can easily be mistaken for the chirping of birds.
Identifying Chipmunk Holes
You won't find excavated soil piled around the hole of a chipmunk — just a hole in the ground measuring 2 to 3 inches in diameter that can either be the entrance or exit for the animal's burrow. In addition to the holes, you may see uprooted bulbs, damage to the structure or foundation of your home from burrow digging, and the animal's tracks, which show four front toes and five hind toes.
Chipmunks tend to stay where there's cover, like shrubs and rocks. For protection from predators, a chipmunk's burrow system, which can be as long as 30 feet, is usually located beneath or close to cover. They dig a dual burrow system made up of a shallow burrow that offers protection during the day when they're foraging and a second burrow as deep as 3 feet that includes chambers where they nest, store food, and spend the winter.
Chipmunks begin gathering food for the winter in late summer, carrying it back to their burrows in large cheek pouches. During the winter, they rest in a state of torpor, which involves deep sleep, lowered body temperature, and waking periods for feeding and defecating.
- University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment: Eastern Chipmunk
- Havahart: Chipmunks
- K-State Research and Extension: Chipmunks
- University of Minnesota Extension: Tunnels and Holes From Moles and Voles
- Mammal Society: Species — Mole
- BBC Wildlife: Do Moles Ever Move Around Above Ground?
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: How To Tell the Difference Between Moles & Voles
- University of Maryland Extension: Moles