What Animal is Making Dirt Mounds in My Yard? [Solved!]

Last Modified on January 16, 2024 by Zachary Smith

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Few things are more frustrating than finding dirt mounds in your yard.

After all, you work hard to keep your lawn and garden beautiful, and dirt mounds destroy your grass, damage your garden and kill your ornamental plants.

They can even create tripping hazards that make your yard dangerous.

Are you wondering what animal is the culprit behind all this damage? We’re here to help you solve the mystery.

At Smith’s Pest Management, we help people in the San Francisco Bay Area get rid of digging pests daily.

In this blog, we’ll provide the information you need to identify the animals creating mysterious mounds of dirt in your yard and control them before they can do more damage.

Why do Animals Create Dirt Mounds in Yards?


Animals create dirt mounds in yards as a byproduct of digging, tunneling, and burrowing behavior.

Many pests, including gophers, moles, ground squirrels, and mice, dig tunnels for safety and shelter, and some leave mounds of dirt behind in the process.

Animals may also create dirt mounds as they dig in your yard for food sources like grubs, insects, vegetation, and worms.

Note: If you can see a visible hole in the middle of the dirt mound, you’ll need to adjust your pest management approach. Read this blog for more information.

How do Burrowing Animals Damage Yards?

Burrowing animals can cause extensive damage to yards in a short period.

Here are some of the main types of damage they cause:

  • Damage to plants and vegetation. In addition to dirt mounds, you may notice signs of damage to your vegetation, including destroyed seedlings, girdled stalks, and gnaw marks on your flower or vegetable plants.
  • Soil shifting and instability. Pests create dirt mounds when they dig through your soil for food and shelter. Over time, all that digging can cause the soil near and around the mounds to shift, erode, or become unstable. If the digging occurs near buildings or structures, like sidewalks or under concrete pads, this can cause building damage and expensive repairs.
  • Tripping hazards. While some dirt mounds are small, others are large enough to become dangerous. Large dirt mounds can present a tripping hazard.
  • Mowing challenges. In some cases, dirt mounds can be so big that they make it impossible to use lawn mowing equipment safely or effectively.
  • Grass damage. Some digging pests create runways in the grass, while others tear up large chunks of sod as they dig.

What Animals Create Dirt Mounds in Yards? 4 Likely Culprits


Small Mounds

1. Pocket Gophers

What causes small dirt mounds in your lawn? Gophers are the likely culprit.

Gophers are prolific diggers and prevalent pests.

They build extensive networks of tunnels and burrows underground and will chew electrical wires, sprinkler lines, and utility lines in the process.

You can identify gopher damage by looking for dirt mounds that are crescent or horseshoe-shaped and about 2-3” wide.

In many cases, the gophers also create an entry hole off to one side of the mound, which they plug with dirt.

2. Moles

Moles are another common pest.

As they dig for grubs, moles create circular mounds with a dirt plug covering the hole in the middle, which may or may not be distinct.

Moles tend to create small dirt mounds in the yard after rain when the soil is moist and easy to dig through.

When viewed from the side, mole mounds are shaped like volcanoes and may feature a raised ridge running to and from the mound.

Mole mounds tend to be about 2” in diameter.

Large Mounds

3. Raccoons

While raccoons don’t dig to create underground burrows, they do dig for food in lawns.

Occasionally, this digging behavior creates holes, dirt mounds, and upturned chunks of sod.

Areas of raccoon damage tend to be larger than either gopher or mole damage, with mounds about 3-4” in diameter.

4. Striped Skunks

Like raccoons, skunks dig up yards in search of food.

They’re primarily nocturnal, so they’ll create holes at night when nobody is around to see them.

Usually, skunk holes are cone-shaped, about 3-4” in diameter, and surrounded by a ring or mound of loose soil.

How to Stop Animals From Digging Dirt Mounds in Your Yard


Once you’ve identified which animals are digging holes in your yard, it’s time to take steps to stop them.

Here are the tactics we recommend:

Pocket Gophers

  • Exclusion fencing. Install exclusion fencing made from wire mesh (the openings should be less than ½” x 1”) around vulnerable areas in your yard. Be sure to dig the fencing at least 2-3’ underground to prevent gophers from digging under it.
  • Trapping and baiting. Trapping and baiting are highly effective ways to suppress gopher populations, especially when infestations are large. Live traps, cinch traps, and baits made from zinc phosphide will make quick work of gopher populations.
  • Yard cleanup. Make your yard less appealing for gophers by removing weeds and tall grass from garden borders, applying repellents, and lining the bottom of your garden beds with gopher wire.
  • Gopher baskets. To prevent gophers from destroying the roots of your trees, plant them in large gopher baskets that prevent gopher predation without girdling the trees.


  • Reduction of food sources. Moles usually create mounds as they dig in search of food. With this in mind, start by removing food sources. Having your yard professionally treated for grubs and earthworms is an excellent first step. You can also use milky spore or beneficial nematodes to kill grubs without using pesticides or harming your yard.
  • Exclusion tactics. To prevent mole mounds, keep the critters out of your yard in the first place. We recommend digging trenches 2’ deep and 6” wide around your yard and lining them with wire mesh.
  • Artificial drought. Moles love damp, loose soil, and creating an artificial drought is an excellent way to deter them from digging in your yard. For best results, avoid over-watering your lawn. Instead, limit moisture to about 1” of water per week.
  • Trapping and baiting. Baiting and trapping programs are excellent ways to get rid of moles. Use mole-specific baits and live traps placed in main mole runways for best results.


  • Reduction of food sources. Raccoons dig in search of food. To prevent raccoon mounds in your yard, remove food sources by treating your yard for grubs.
  • Deterrents. Use light- and movement-based deterrents (motion-activated flood lights and sprinklers work well) to keep raccoons out of your yard.
  • Sanitization. Sanitization is one of the best ways to get rid of raccoons. With this in mind, secure all trash cans, install exclusion fencing around high-interest areas, and remove access to water sources like rain-filled pots or birdbaths.


  • Deterrents. Use light- and movement-based deterrents (motion-activated flood lights and sprinklers work well) to keep raccoons out of your yard.
  • Trapping. Most skunk infestations are best managed via live trapping. Contact a professional pest management company like Smith’s for help removing skunks humanely and safely.

Do you Have Dirt Mounds In Your San Francisco Bay Area Yard? We Can Help!

Finding dirt mounds in your yard can be frustrating, but you don’t have to live with them forever.

By identifying the animal causing the damage, you can devise a humane, effective management plan that puts an end to the mounds and allows you to reclaim your outdoor space.

If your DIY tactics fail or you just want extra help, Smith’s Pest Management is here.

Our team of pest management professionals utilizes humane, comprehensive, eco-friendly pest removal tactics in areas from Marin to Monterey, and can help you get even severe infestations under control as quickly as possible.

Contact us today for your free pest management quote: (408) 514-5703.


How do you flatten dirt mounds?

The easiest way to flatten dirt mounds caused by digging pests is to use a lawn roller, shovel, and rake. Using the shovel, dig into the mound until it’s level with the rest of your yard. Next, tamp it down with the back of the shovel. Rake dirt back into place over the mound, and use a lawn roller to flatten the area. Reseed the area if needed.

Will digging pests go away on their own?

In most cases, the answer is no. Since digging pests are looking for food or shelter, they won’t go away until you remove the thing they’re looking for. Because of this, we recommend working with a pest management professional to uncover and address the root cause of the infestation.

Will flattening dirt mounds get rid of pests?

No – flattening the mounds will make your yard look better, but it won’t stop the pests. To eliminate the pests, you need to identify which animals are creating the mounds and find ways to reduce their populations via exclusion, trapping, baiting, and habitat modification.

Author Bio: Zach Smith

Landscape Pro Turned Gopher Pro: Owner, Zach Smith, graduate of Cal Poly’s Horticulture program worked nine years as a landscape professional- dealing with gophers, moles, and ground squirrels and was quickly recruited by other local gardeners. Fast forward to the past 15+ years, where Zach and his team trap and remove burrowing pests from residential, municipal and commercial properties throughout the San Francisco Bay area, from Marin to Monterey.