If you have rodent holes in your yard, it is vital to understand how to tell what animal made the holes. Various rodent species create similar burrows, tunnels, and holes, and understanding what critter has made its home in your yard is the only way to know how to deal with it. So, with this in mind, how do you tell the difference between rat and chipmunk holes?
Rats make bigger messes and bigger holes and will use the holes at night. Chipmunks make smaller holes and less mess and will use the holes in the early morning. Chipmunks burrow near trees or buildings, while rats dig near dense vegetation.
The holes made by rats and chipmunks are very similar, but there are a few key differences to look out for that can help you tell them apart. If you know what to search for, the differences are clearly identifiable.
So let’s take a closer look at them to help you understand what you’re dealing with.
Rat Holes Vs. Chipmunk Holes
Chipmunks and rats are surprisingly similar in many ways, but these rodents have some critical differences.
Both rodents are known for burrowing and making nests underground. In addition, they live in the same environments, eat the same food, and are often a similar size. This means they make holes that look incredibly similar to each other.
It can be exceedingly challenging to determine the difference between a rat hole and a chipmunk hole, but some differences give them away.
The main differences between rat holes and chipmunk holes include the following:
- The size of the holes.
- The number of holes within a specific area.
- Where they dig the holes and what is around the holes.
- The type of soil the holes are dug in.
- Whether or not the holes have been filled in.
- Evidence left behind by the rodents that made the hole.
- Seeing the animal using the hole.
Let’s examine these techniques more closely to help you discern which critters have taken up residence on your property.
The Size Of The Holes
Chipmunks and rats make very similar-sized holes, but rats are more prominent than chipmunks, depending on the species.
Rats are probably responsible if the holes are larger than 3″ in diameter. The entrance of a rat hole will look like a perfect circle and be at least 4″ wide.
A rat hole entrance may have bits of gray, black, or tan hair left behind as the rodent attempts to squeeze through the hole.
The holes are rarely more than 18 inches deep unless they attempt to burrow past a foundation or other barriers.
On the other hand, Chipmunk holes are usually about 2-3 inches in diameter and can be up to 2″ deep. They consist of tunnels and side pockets, making it easy for them to store food.
The Number Of Holes
Both rats and chipmunks dig multiple holes in their burrows and can dig extensive burrows over large areas.
However, rat colonies rarely exceed 3 feet in length and 18 inches deep unless they tunnel under structural barriers.
On the other hand, Chipmunks burrow deep underground to shelter from the cold. Their tunnels rarely exceed 10 meters (about 33 ft.) in length and 3 feet deep.
Chipmunk holes have several entrance points, while rat holes have only one.
Where They Dig
Chipmunks and rats live in similar habitats, but where they dig their burrows is usually very different.
Rats dig burrows along dense vegetation, such as thick bushes, or they create burrows close to food sources, such as gardens or houses.
Chipmunks prefer to dig burrows where there is some form of artificial or natural cover, such; as tree logs, wood piles, stumps, or rocks.
They prefer to build their tunnels underground, but if necessary, they will build their burrows in logs or bushes. They have learned how to adapt to their environment.
Chipmunks tend to forage for food in trees, so they keep their burrows close to areas with plenty of trees that provide food, while rats eat almost anything and create a burrow with nests close to an abundant food source.
Filled In Holes
One of the easiest ways to tell if chipmunks have made holes in your yard is if any holes have been filled in or plugged up.
Well-known for their resourcefulness, chipmunks often plug up sections or entryways to help regulate airflow and temperature even when the burrow is still in use.
They will re-dig the holes to get through but will cover it back up once they get through.
Rats do not do this and will always leave holes entirely open. An active rat hole will be clear of spiderwebs and debris.
The Type of Soil
The composition of the soil surrounding a hole can be an indication as to which type of rodents created it.
Chipmunks prefer loose soil but do not like it to be too dry. On the other hand, rats prefer fertile soil, which is why they are attracted to gardens, compost piles, and yards.
Evidence Left Behind
Another way to distinguish the holes between rats or chipmunks is to examine the droppings, smells, and tracks left behind by the animals.
Rat droppings can be found anywhere outside the hole and appear in large quantities, usually as black specks. Therefore, if there is a large number of rats living in the same hole, you’ll notice a strong odor coming from the hole.
On the other hand, chipmunks only poop in designated sections of their burrows. That said, if you notice poop outside, the burrow, for instance, inside your home or basement, they have likely been living in the space for some time.
Chipmunk droppings are only left within the holes or concentrated areas and are brown rather than black.
Chipmunks are also generally cleaner than rats and will leave less mess and evidence of their presence.
Chipmunks are usually smaller than rats and have very different body shapes and tails. So the tracks that they leave behind are different as well.
Examine the area around the holes, and you will quickly find evidence left behind by the rodent that dug them, and you should be able to determine the animal that made them just by the evidence left behind.
The last method on this list for determining which rodents made the holes in your yard is also the most obvious: looking for the animals.
Chipmunks are diurnal, which means they are easily visible during the day when they enter and exit their burrows, usually in the early morning and mid-late evening.
Rats are nocturnal, and you won’t see them using the holes during the day.
If you see chipmunks using the holes, they were made by chipmunks, and if you see rats moving in and out of them at night, then they are rat holes.
Consider Other Animals That Burrow
Many other animals create holes in the ground, from rabbits to gophers and moles.
If you find a hole with no evidence of any droppings or tracks left behind, it could be a sign another animal is living underground.
Chipmunk holes and rat holes are very similar, but as long as you look for these signs, you should quickly determine which rodents have infested your property.
Carefully inspect the burrows to determine which animal has made its home there, and plan accordingly. Because each species requires different strategies for removal, it is essential that you can accurately identify them.
If you’re unsure how to deal with them, you can always consult a professional to ensure that the problem is taken care of in an effective and efficient manner.
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