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January 27, 2012

Fence Out Digging Animals

An L-shaped footer creates an underground barrier

The Humane Society of the United States

  • An L-footer constructed of welded wire mesh is the most reliable way to keep digging animals out from underneath structures. John Griffin/The HSUS

Animals who take up residence under a deck, crawl space, or shed often are capable diggers.

If you put up a fence to keep them out, be sure to extend wire meshing out in an “L” shape at or beneath the ground. L–footer style fencing will also keep wildlife out of yards and gardens.

L–footers can be homemade using fencing material or purchased from the sources listed in our Guide to Retail Sources for Products to Resolve Wildlife Conflicts.

How deep?

Ideally, these footers are buried about a foot deep and are extended out at a 90-degree angle a foot or more to present a horizontal barrier to any animal who decides to dig underneath the fence.

What size mesh?

The size of the wire mesh you choose depends on the size of the animals you’re trying to exclude. Typically two by three inch fencing, galvanized or plastic coated for resistance to the weather, will exclude woodchucks, raccoons, and opossums but not small rodents. One-by-one inch galvanized wire should be used if you want to keep out smaller animals.

It doesn’t have to be buried to work

It is not absolutely necessary that the L-footer be buried. You can lay it on the surface if digging is made impossible by foundation plants, roots, or rocky soil. Use landscaping staples from garden supply outlets to hold the footer tightly down. Then cover it with soil or mulch or allow grass to grow through it until it is incorporated into the turf. 

Make a fence, not a trap

If you are trying to keep an animal from  living under a deck or shed, make sure that you don’t accidentally trap the animal. When installing the footer:

  • Fence all but one opening (large enough for the target animal, of course).
  • Monitor for activity by placing some material (try propping a few sticks or stuffing some loosely wadded newspaper) in the opening and checking every day to see if it’s been pushed aside or crushed.
  • If you see no signs of activity for a number of days, finish installing your fence. Keep a close eye on the fenced-in area, though, and make sure no animals have been inadvertently trapped. (In some situations, you might want to use a one way door to allow animals to evict themselves, but not get back in.)  

Caution! Any time you make changes to an area where animals might be denning, you must examine that area daily after the animal has been excluded to make sure she has not tried to get back in or that young are not trapped inside. 

Some animals, such as the groundhog, hibernate. If you are excluding an animal who hibernates during the colder months, make sure that you don’t turn their dens into tombs when they wake in warmer months, well after you have stopped monitoring the area where you’ve erected the fence.

» If you are located within the D.C. Metro Area, take advantage of our wildlife conflict resolution service.
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