Although you may think your horse will just avoid pasture holes, think again. Holes may be difficult to see, especially if the horse is spooked or running. And, holes of course mean burrowing mammals that can spread deadly diseases like rabies and bubonic plague (found in prairie dogs) to people and horses.
Late fall is a good time to tackle holes. Its cooler weather makes the work easier, and you have less of a chance of running into an active ground-bee nest.
If you’ve got current pests, you may be able to trap and remove them, if it’s legal in your area. Avoid leg-hold or body-gripping traps, which are cruel and can also injure non-target animals and humans. Stick with live-catch safety traps, and be sure you know what you’re going to do with the animal before you catch him. Check with your local Cooperative Extension about local trapping laws.
You can also hire a licensed nuisance wildlife trapper, who can legally trap and move the animal. Most are in the yellow pages or through the Cooperative Extension.
However, it’s easy and effective to make your farm unappealing and force the pests to move. Start by keeping the property mowed and busy. Activity is a big deterrent. If you spot a hole with a fresh mound of dirt near it, it’s likely lived in. Burrowing animals do a little digging everyday.
Make your farm unfriendly by placing dirty kitty litter near the hole, making the animals think a predator is near. Coyote urine, available at pest-control outlets, may also work.
While you can purchase devices that give off poisonous gases, we’d avoid it. Ditto on bait-poisoning or shooting the animals. These methods are dangerous to you and to non-target animals — and may be illegal anyway. If you’re persistent with filling holes and farm activity — mowing, riding, taking the dogs into the field — you’ll find fewer critters want to make the place home.
Once you’ve eliminated the pests, fill in the holes. Other animals may be attracted if you leave them open. Inspect the field weekly for new digs. Fill holes immediately and place a deterrent near the entrance. Remember that almost all burrows have at least a “front door” and a “back door,” so look around.
When you fill in holes, initially make the hole wider than it is. This helps you do a more effective fill job. To block the large, lower part of the hole, you’ll need to bring in dirt, gravel or cement. Pack the filling down, then use dirt to fill the top of the hole to encourage grass growth. Again, tamp firmly.
When you’ve finished, return every day for the next week or so to be sure no animals have returned. After that, a periodic check for fresh holes should be all it takes to keep the holes under control.