I’ve learned from experience how frightening it is to find mysterious holes around your garden and home. Could this be done by wild animals like hedgehogs? Or is it simply a rat? Truthfully, hedgehogs rarely dig holes. Once you’re done reading, you can identify what animal is digging these holes and understand why!
Rat holes and echidna holes can be differentiated by their 1) size, 2) depth, 3) location, 4) droppings, and 5) the timing of when it was made. Rats can damage gardens and must be removed, while echidnas are not dangerous and will eventually leave.
The presence of wild rats is never wanted, especially when they could potentially disturb your garden or infest your home. By using my guide, you should be able to confirm if it’s a rat issue. But with a bit of luck, it might just be the work of a harmless echidna!
Rats are much smaller than echidnas so they dig small holes 1–2 inches wide. Echidnas typically dig small holes to look for food. However, they may also bury themselves in the ground for protection and leave a large foot-wide hole.
When echidnas come to visit, they’ll normally just leave small and shallow holes after looking for insects to eat.
If they feel endangered, however, echidnas will sometimes burrow into the ground to cover their bodies with dirt and hide from predators.
When the hole in your garden can fit a cat and is only about a foot (30 cm) deep, it may just be due to an echidna.
Holes made by rats can be as small as 1–2 inches (2–5 cm), depending on the size of the rat.
The entry holes can be a few inches wider though, especially if the hole was made long ago and has eroded and become compact from use.
Holes made by echidnas will be shallow and usually no more than 2 inches deep. Contrarily, rats will dig into the ground to create deep holes and tunnels.
The depth of the holes will help you distinguish if it was made by an echidna or a rat.
Rats often dig holes to create tunnels. So when the holes seem to go on and on, creating an underground network, it’s very possible that this was made by a rat.
What about echidnas? Well, these animals generally only make small and narrow holes roughly around 2 inches (5 cm) deep, just enough for their snouts to fit in.
Long-beaked echidnas can make holes that are even deeper to poke around for underground insects, but they shouldn’t be very deep.
It might be annoying to see in the yard, however, these echidna holes can help aerate your soil!
Learn more in Can You Aerate Your Soil With A Garden Fork?
Large holes and tunnels found at the sides of houses and fences are frequently caused by rats. Echidnas will leave holes near ant nests or leave randomly placed holes in the garden in search of food.
Here’s the thing: echidnas are insectivores and survive mainly on bugs hiding in the soil.
Because of this, their holes may be randomly scattered around your yard as the mammal searches for food.
If you find any ant or termite remnants around or in the holes, you likely had an echidna come and play exterminator for you for free!
Rats, however, usually make holes for two reasons: to maneuver past an obstacle and to take shelter.
These holes can be found underneath stairs, at the bottom of fences, or on the side of your home.
Checking for animal droppings is the most effective way to tell the difference between rat and echidna holes. Echidna poop will be cylindrical and filled with dirt, while rats tend to leave hardened pellet-shaped droppings around their tunnels.
Multiple animals, such as squirrels or rabbits, can attack our plants or leave holes around our homes.
But if you find dark brown or black elongated pellets inside or all around the holes, you probably have a rat problem.
Rats also tend to have a very musky and unpleasant pungent smell and tend to urinate everywhere they go.
Echidna scat can look similar to cat poop and will look as if it’s made up mostly of dirt—and that’s because it is.
Echidnas tend to consume dirt while eating ants and worms. This dirt is released from their bodies and can be seen in their feces.
I must remind you though to be careful when investigating any type of animal excrement!
It’s easy for rat poop to become brittle and deteriorate over time, which can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome when inhaled.
For full safety, please be sure to wear a mask, gloves, and eye protection.
Echidnas can be seen digging holes from June to September. It is rare for them to dig holes in gardens during the summer when it is too hot. Rat activity can occur in all seasons, including winter.
Rats and echidnas are both nocturnal creatures, so the holes can appear seemingly overnight.
Unfortunately, rat holes can be seen throughout the year. I’ve discovered that they can be especially desperate to find shelter before the winter.
Alternatively, you’re more likely to see echidnas in late June to August or September when they are engaged in the breeding season.
They can also be seen as early as February in mild climates, looking for food.
Since they can’t sweat, echidnas are also very sensitive to heat. Therefore, it’s uncommon for them to be out and about during the summer, when high temperatures can kill them.
Echidnas belong to a different animal family from hedgehogs so they are not related. Moreover, echidnas are insectivores and are typically only seen in Australia, whereas hedgehogs are omnivores that can be seen in Africa, Europe, and the US.
They may have a highly similar spiky appearance, but there are plenty of differences between the two. For one, echidnas and hedgehogs belong to different animal families.
Additionally, hedgehogs are omnivores and are more common in the US, Europe, and Africa, while echidnas eat insects and are primarily found in Australia.
Hedgehogs can dig and burrow if they must. However, they’d much rather shelter in a secluded area rather than dig holes in a yard rife with human activity.
Many rats can be aggressive by destroying plants and contaminating the garden with their disease-causing poop and urine. Conversely, echidnas can be useful at eliminating pests like ants and are timid mammals that will likely not stay for long.
Remember, rats aren’t known for being hygienic. Left unchecked, they can leave poop and urine throughout your garden, all while attacking your plants!
These rodents are even known to go after chickens and their feed, making everything unsanitary. Over time, the rats could even migrate into your home and behave similarly.
On the flip side, echidnas are shyer than they are dangerous. They don’t often venture out and will eventually leave your property to return to their burrows.
Even if you’d rather not have them around, know that it’s best to leave the long-beaked echidnas unharmed. More importantly, report their presence to local authorities, as they are an endangered species.
Do gardens attract rats?
Rats are frequently attracted to homes and gardens because these areas offer an abundance of food, warmth, and shelter. Gardens with food crops are especially prone to be attacked by rats.
Are echidnas venomous?
Echidnas have evolved from platypus-like animals and can secrete toxins from the spurs on their hind feet. However, it is non-venomous and there have not been any reports of echidnas producing any venom.
Both rats and echidnas can dig and leave holes in gardens and around houses. There are differences between the two, however, which can be seen in the size, depth, and location of the hole. Animal droppings and the timing of when the hole was found are also important.
While echidnas may have similar characteristics to hedgehogs, these two animals are not related. Echidnas are harmless insectivores that will eventually leave the garden and go back to their burrows. Rats, on the other hand, have destructive tendencies and rapid breeding rates, which make them dangerous to leave in the garden.