Help! Lawn damage

We have been at this location for 9 years with no previous problems. This year we re-seeded in late September and now have discovered overnight two large areas of extensive disturbance to the turf. I first suspected moles or voles, but on closer examination I see a large number of small pieces of turf that have been scuffed aside, but there are no tunnels beneath them. It looks like a large-ish animal, like a big dog or something, has torn up the lawn. But there are no footprints, and there is no sign of claw marks (the soil is soft and damp), and there is no history of dogs running loose in the area. I have no idea what is causing this, but the damage is extensive and I don't know how to control it. We have a new puppy, so poison is out of the question. If anybody has any ideas I'd appreciate hearing them. Thanks Dave
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On Sunday, October 7, 2012 3:20:52 PM UTC-4, Dave wrote:

Here are some pictures - I tried to post them earlier but a Comcast problem interfered. http://home.comcast.net/~dg_moore/lawndamage/lawndamage.html
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Dave said:

Very typical of skunks digging for grubs and worms. (Racoons are another possible culprit, but skunks would be my primary suspect.) This time of year they are working hard to fatten up, doubly so as they probably had a tough time of it over the summer. They tend to avoid thick, uniform stands of turf and concentrate on areas where the turf is thinning, patchy or otherwise varied.
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Pat in Plymouth MI

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On Monday, October 8, 2012 7:55:05 AM UTC-4, Pat Kiewicz wrote:

Interesting - we do smell skunks around here regularly, but I haven't actually seen any. Wonder how to deal with them, if the culprit turns out to be skunks. Maybe if I catch them in the act I could run toward them, yelling and waving my arms? I don't see how that could go wrong...
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Dave said:

They generally come out at night, though I've occasionally run across baby ones at dusk and the sometimes one that's found rich picking that will still be out chowing down near dawn. (Be extremely wary of any skunk you see in broad daylight. There is an very good chance they are rabid.)
Even the tiniest skunk will be unimpressed by yelling and waving. It will calmly lift its tail and look back over its shoulder at you. Even stamp its back feet a few times. Baby skunks are actually *extremely* cute when they do this. Still capable of giving you a dousing you won't soon forget, but damn cute.
The best prevention is to have a thick, uniform stand of turf. They really prefer easier digging and know thin turf is the best place to look for bugs.
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Pat in Plymouth MI

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On 10/8/2012 5:09 PM, Dave wrote:

seen any. Wonder how to deal with them, if the culprit turns out to be skunks. Maybe if I catch them in the act I could run toward them, yelling and waving my arms? I don't see how that could go wrong...

As Pat points out, skunks are fearless. You back off, not them. You can actually catch them in a Hav-a-hart trap and dispose of them if you have the nerve. You throw a tarp over the trapped skunk and haul it away and release it by opening the trap from a distance.
From discussion, I suspect dogs. I have not seen that much lawn damage from skunks and other critters.
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On Tuesday, October 9, 2012 8:15:11 AM UTC-4, Frank wrote:

Interesting discussion. I still don't know what, if anything, I can do about this. I think I'll set up a motion activated camera and see if I can catch anybody in the act.
Thanks to all! Dave
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Squirrels also dig holes to bury nuts in the Fall. But since it's apparently happening at night, that would rule them out. Skunks and raccoons dig for grubs. I'd suggest lifting a square foot section of turf in a few places adjacent to where the digging has occured. If you find grubs, that would suggest treating for them could solve both the grub problem and the digging. Depending on where you are, it's late to treat for grubs now though.
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