Our beautiful grass runway has been damaged by some critters that dig holes. Any recommendations?


mystery holesI am reaching out on behalf of our community radio control airplane club. Over the last 6-12 months, our beautiful grass runway has been damaged by some critters that dig holes. The holes range from approx 1.5″ to 5″ in diameter and are now ripping the wheels off our aircraft! We have not seen the animals. The damage is accelerating. The turf looks pretty good, it is just the holes that is the problem. We had grubs 3-4 years ago with significant grass damage and that was treated professionally and resolved. Our 600×100 foot runway is in a sunny field surrounded by hay. I don’t know if this is important, but until the last year the hay was mowed twice during the summer. Last summer it was not mowed at all and the problem started about that time. Any recommendations are appreciated!


Pamela Hargest, Horticulture Professional

Thanks for getting in touch! I’ve just confirmed with Adam Vashon, a Wildlife Biologist from the APHIS program that those holes were created by chipmunks. Adam has provided general recommendations below, but also said that he’d be more than happy to chat with you about your specific situation, so he can provide the best recommendation for you. Feel free to reach out to him either via email at adam.d.vashon@usda.gov or phone at 207.629.5181.

Without knowing specifics, I would recommend rat-sized snap traps used in a box that will exclude many other non-target animals (can be homemade with 1.75” hole or purchased).  Chipmunks are often abundant and prolific, so they should be prepared to catch a lot. In this situation, you’d be better off living with some of the damage because it is a species that will always be around, and their resource damage is in a relatively wild, open space, so long-term solutions are few. This factsheet, Chipmunks (PDF) should help detail the options. I will say that Naphthalene (moth balls/flakes) should NOT be used as that would be considered off-label use.