From a Correspondent:
I have some critter that loves to dig in the bark mulch at the edge of the sidewalk. Mostly he digs holes and spreads the mulch on the sidewalk. In one night, we can have 10 or 12 holes. I've also found holes in my flower pots! We do have a delinquent squirrel in the neighborhood. Could it be him? Or some other critter? Any ideas for directing him elsewhere?
Monica, Phoenix, Ariz.
Good morning Monica,
While it is possible that your delinquent squirrel is causing some of the holes, your mention of the holes being at the edge of the sidewalk and in the flower pots makes me think the main culprit is a desert critter of the avian type: the Curve-Billed Thrasher. If the holes weren't consistently on edges or in pots I might think you had other birds seeking dirt baths, but the edges fit the Thrasher's modus operandi.
The Curve-Billed Thrasher is native to the Desert Southwest and is notorious for digging holes in the ground at the edges of pavement and in pots. The good news is that all the digging is undertaken in the quest to eat grubs and other potentially harmful larvae. The bad news is of course the mess. The other good news is that their mischief is somewhat seasonal, so you shouldn't have to deal with them year-round. Some years I have seen them empty every pot on a property while in other years they do almost nothing at all.
For the pots you can try putting down some chicken wire, or some decorative stones, but, for the landscape, any barrier just moves them to the area next to the barrier.
As for moving either the birds or the squirrel elsewhere, we run into one of the realities of nature: when we create the conditions that attract and support a certain kind of critter — whether squirrels, birds, bugs, or graffiti artists — then that kind of critter will move into the conditions that we created. In the urban landscape we tend to forget that, but it works every time. Our challenge then becomes balancing our enjoyment of the landscape we've created against the nuisance of the other critters who enjoy the same landscape. If you like the landscape you're creating, then it's probably worth the mental exercise of accepting that some critters with annoying habits are going to want to share it with you.
You could also try putting out little four-inch-high signs that have "no digging" written on them; it won't do anything to stop the birds and squirrel, but it will give the neighbors something to talk about. If you try this option, please send pictures.
I hope this helps,