The family dog may enjoy frolicking in the backyard, then try to dig a hole, but usually when people talk about animals that dig, they are referring to those insects or mammals that live in burrows and dig or tunnel underground. Thousands of animals dig in the ground, ranging from ants that live in colonies to certain fish and salamanders, even to birds like the burrowing owl. These animals can show themselves by night or by day, and they live in all types of settings and climates.
Around the House
A variety of ants, spiders and other insects might live in your backyard. If you have a large property and grow a garden, you may notice signs of moles digging. When a mole burrows, it leaves behind mounds at periodic stopping points. Skunks, gophers and squirrels also dig in the ground. A well-known earth digger is the earthworm. These creatures are vital to gardeners; they eat dirt and soil, and they can turn yard waste into valuable compost to nurture your garden. Some bees nest in the ground, so be careful when wandering around barefoot.
Out in Nature
If you take a hike in the mountains, fields, meadows or deserts, you can find many types of animal that dig and burrow. Kangaroo rats, rabbits, skunks, badgers, snakes and salamanders are common in many areas. Armadillos, aardvarks, groundhogs, foxes and wolves tend to live farther away from human contact; however, as people build homes deeper into the animals' usual habitats, more of these wild animals are sighted. The desert tortoise is among the many burrowing animals that live in hotter regions.
Holes and Burrows
Sometimes you may see a hole in the ground and are not sure what might be living in it. Rather than sticking your hand down the hole and risk getting bit, study the animals for your vicinity. The size of the hole can be an indicator of what lives in it or what might burrow much farther beneath the ground. Some animals, like foxes or coyotes, will live in holes in trees. Burrows provide safety for the many animals who live in them. They also provide shelter on hot days or when ice forms and they are hibernating. Burrows provide moist ground, too, which helps prevent an animal's skin or fur from drying out.
Many animals dig for their food underground. They can live above or under the ground, and they hunt for other small animals or for bugs and vegetation to meet their survival needs. Bluejays bury peanuts and other treasures, then return days or weeks later to dig them up. Many burrowing animals stock up on food; chipmunks gather nuts for future use. Some human foods can be dangerous to these creatures, so be careful what you toss into the trash. Nocturnal explorers, like northern raccoons, will gladly tip over all the trash cans in a neighborhood to find something to eat.