Holes in yard next to lake shore

Asked May 12, 2019, 3:29 PM EDT

1) Can you name the critter that is making these holes and undermining the whole area? 2) Do you know how to get rid of them or send them somewhere else? Picture 1 is the general area. Some of the holes are bigger, maybe 8" across. Others are smaller and more defined, 1.5" across (picture 2). Picture 3 is an area about 6 square feet and you can see how many holes they made in an area that small. It is very difficult to walk in the area because of the unevenness of the ground created by the holes. We want to put dirt on the area, level it off, and plant grass. But the critters will just make more holes unless we can figure out what to do about them. We have obviously tried putting rocks over the holes.

Genesee County Michigan

5 Responses


From your photos and description, my best guess is chipmunks, or potentially ground squirrels. The size of the holes seems right and the lack of piles of dirt outside the holes is a characteristic of both - they carry dirt away in the cheeks. Have you seen either around your property? With that many holes I would guess they are looking for food. You could lay hardware cloth down temporarily - or even bury it under some soil - to stop the burrowing. Your grass would grow right through the hardware cloth if you wanted to leave it there.

We also recommend consider deeper-rooted plants near lake shores (it's hard for me to tell from the photo how close this actually is to the water). Lawn grass roots aren't deep enough to prevent erosion if waves or ice hit the area, but taller plants can do the trick (and once established, are much less appealing to little digging rodents).

Yes, we have seen lots of chipmunks. Not sure about ground squirrels. There are lots of tree squirrels. There are lots of ground hogs too, and rabbits.
The area pictured is right next to the lake, 1' or so. We have wondered if muskrats could do that kind of damage. We see a lot of them. And it almost seems like something is making holes from below the ground. There are deep indentations. We had to put chicken wire around the tree because some critter was gnawing it and might have girdled it. We are gradually putting riprap on the shore to stop the erosion.
What kind of taller plants are you suggesting?
We do plan to put down the hardware cloth you suggested because we are putting down topsoil to level it off and that will at least give us some hope that the holes won't be made in the new soil and grass.

Muskrats are also definitely a culprit to consider, especially near the water. Since most of the holes look fairly small, that's why I was thinking chipmunks. But if there are also some larger holes (you mentioned up to 8") that could easily be a muskrat. You could have a few different species doing damage, actually.

Given your interest in erosion control options, I recommend you check out the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership website. This resource is maintained by folks from MSU Extension, the DNR, and others, to show ways to minimize erosion while keeping the lakeshore as a healthy habitat for desirable critters (like birds, fish, and frogs). You may find it interesting to check out! It includes nice lists of good plants with deep roots to plant along lakeshores.

Here's the link: http://www.mishorelinepartnership.org/

Thank you for the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership website. Good information and I will get started on plants that will help. But short term, I need a solution.
Muskrats are definitely the culprit for the large holes and the unevenness of the ground. A resident has seen them and even trapped and removed some of them. That person said you could see that they were tunneling under the lawn back from the water for several feet.
How can get rid of them in this particular spot? They have quite a few other options nearby where they wouldn't do damage. Would some kind of structure at the shoreline discourage them from tunneling? I am working at putting riprap across the area to help hold the shore. Will that discourage them?

I have not personally worked on nuisance muskrat control. The Michigan DNR recommends contacting your local DNR wildlife biologist, or a permitted Wildlife Damage and Nuisance Control Business, for advice. You can find your DNR wildlife biologist by contacting your Customer Service Center (https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-350-79137_79765_81257---,00.html). Here is the DNR's latest list of private businesses that have permits to appropriately address nuisance wildlife: https://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/WLD_Wildlife_Damage_and_Nuisance_Control_Permittees_366435_7.pdf

Finally, here's a fairly recent article from Michigan Lake Stewardship Associations with some "do it yourself" suggestions: https://www.mymlsa.org/muskrats-in-the-lake-and-in-your-boat/

Good luck!