Polk County Conservation

Backyard Animal Digging

  • This fall one morning I woke up to my back yard topsoil being totally upturned in patches. My once smooth level green yard has turned lumpy with dead yellow and bare dirt patches everywhere in just a couple weeks. I’ve seen squirrels out there digging so perhaps it’s them, but they do this every fall, and my yard has never seen this kind of devastation. I have been trying to put the sod back in its place and mash it in with my shoe every few days, but will the grass take root again even though it’s just loosely placed back? Or will I need to resod my entire back yard? I can’t see doing this yearly! Is there something I can do to prevent this from happening again?

    There are two animals that cause damage to lawns this time of year, skunks and raccoons. They are trying to fatten up before winter and are searching for food like grubs and worms anyplace they can find it. Skunks create precise cone-shaped depressions when digging, while raccoons will roll up or shred the sod in search of food. Based on your description, I suspect raccoons have caused the damage. I would wait until next spring to reseed the dead patches. Next fall you could certainly have the same problem again. The only way to make sure it doesn't happen again to trap and remove the raccoons. You can try contacting one of the Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators working in the Des Moines area. They have the permits needed to trap and remove wildlife. The Iowa DNR has a full list of Iowa's Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators.

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