Holes and signs of tunnels through the lawn are a good indication that an animal thinks your yard is a nice place to call home too. Depending on where you live and the size of the holes, that animal is likely a mole, vole, ground squirrel, or prairie dog.
Moles and Voles
Moles and voles are mousy creatures that burrow underground, and they're often confused with one another, as are their holes or tunnels. Moles are slender and silvery to brown in color and have enlarged front feet designed for digging. One look at their feet and their lack of mouselike ears and it's clear that moles aren't mice. Moles often leave small hills or mounds as well as raised ridges above their tunnels.
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Voles are chunkier than hamsters and are sometimes mistaken as mice. They're even called field or meadow mice in some areas, although some species of voles get much larger than mice, averaging 4 to 8 inches in length. Voles sometimes reuse tunnels left by moles, but voles don't create mounds. Instead, their tunnels look like runways of dirt through a lawn with holes the size of golf balls. They tunnel near the surface, and the damage they cause is most obvious in early spring when their runways are most visible.
Chipmunks Dig Holes Too
Chipmunks are yet another rodent that tunnels through a yard, leaving golf-ball-size holes. A chipmunk resembles a gerbil with stripes and runs quite fast. Its tunnel holes are often found in somewhat protected areas, such as in a flowerbed near a corner of your home or near a wood pile rather than just randomly in the middle of a lawn.
Chipmunks dig out an extensive tunnel network and stuff the dirt in their cheeks as they dig, scattering the dirt elsewhere to make their several entrance holes less obvious. Unlike vole runways, the paths of chipmunk tunnels aren't obvious from above ground, as these creatures burrow more than 2 feet deep.
Larger Tunneling Animals
While small animals are most likely to create tunnels beneath the lawn, larger animals sometimes do too. Gophers or pocket gophers reach up to 10 inches long, leaving horseshoe-shaped mounds near all their burrow entrances. Gopher activity can wreak havoc on a yard, as the tunnels may cave in, or the grass roots may be killed. Though these animals are not huge, their damage can be significant.
Groundhogs reach about 2 feet long and are beefy beings, much larger than gophers. Their burrows often have only one entrance, and it's in a protected area, such as near the base of a tree or along a fence or building. A groundhog hole is up to 1 foot wide, so it's hard to miss.
Other animals, such as prairie dogs and other ground squirrels, also burrow in the ground. Prairie dogs prefer vast, open spaces and live in colonies, so if prairie dogs have moved into your yard, you'll easily spot them since they're active during the day. Their holes also have mounds around them, but actually seeing the animal is the easiest way to tell that a prairie dog is responsible for any particular hole or mound.