Of pumpkins, deer, and other 'natural' garden elements

ctlady_gw(z6 CT)October 10, 2009

Saw first deer of the season on our property earlier this week -- three white-tails bounding away early one morning, leaping through our waist-high meadow. My first thought was the seven blueberry bushes lining the edge of the yard near the meadow (I've been told they'll eat the bare canes, though usually in the dead of winter). So I checked them all, fingers crossed. No munching...checked every day since, just in case. Nothing. Then I checked the zucchini, growing in the compost pile at the edge of the meadow (and yes, I confess. I checked that HOPEFULLY, thinking that with any luck, those last zucchini would be history. But they're still there, too, although the leaves have been lopped off, which seems odd as they're quite prickly and "hairy" -- things I thought deer disliked? ...)

Then today, I found this at the edge of the meadow:

... which I am GUESSING is deer damage? Anyone know? Those are clearly teeth marks (kind of big teeth at that). Anything else that MIGHT have done that to my struggling-to-ripen-by-Halloween Howden pumpkin?? The other pumpkins look okay (so far). And why would they eat the pumpkin when there was lovely Italian zucchini (MUCH easier to chew) a few feet away???! I had no idea deer would eat pumpkins!

The same day as this discovery, as we're raking leaves off walkways and trying to deal with the sticky, goey mass of pine cones that came down during all that wind earlier this week, my dog starts barking madly up a tree. Seriously. Barking up a tree :) So we look up, and here's what's got her all excited:

So after convincing her it was NOT her long-lost Orbee football (not an easy task), we started wondering what to do about it .. or do we do nothing? It is near the roofline but well off the ground. Will these guys just die off over the winter? Should we try to get it down? If so, how? How cold does it have to get before this is a safe task? I've read that the nests will just disintegrate over the winter, which would obviously be much easier... any advice?

Not really a "gardening" question... but close enough. It's OVER a garden! ;)

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corunum z6 CT(6)

Looks like canine teeth, Marty, maybe small deer, as the teeth compared to the maple leaf, don't look that large. I had a similar experience with 'something' eating a persian melon last year. Took several nights to eat it, teeth marks looked the same and the footprints in the garden were that of a raccoon or fox - both of which have canine teeth. Deer only have bottom teeth, but the scraping of your pumpkin could be the work of deer, I guess. Did you notice any footprints?

I'd save the hive till a good frozen day in January, then whack it one.

Jane

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   October 11, 2009 at 10:39AM
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ctlady_gw(z6 CT)

Jane -- thanks for the ideas. I didn't know deer didn't have upper front teeth! I do think the pumpkin looks "scraped" out -- the grooves from whoever-it-was's teeth are between 1/2 inch and 3/8 inch wide. We've never seen fox and only rarely raccoons, but with all the other wildlife around here, I can't imagine they aren't out there, too. No way to check for tracks because the pumpkins are growing along the edge, and mostly INTO, a meadow of grasses, milkweed, etc. I was going mostly on the "sighting" of the three white-tailed visitors a few days earlier, high-tailing it (so to speak -- guess that's where that expression comes from?) away from the barn (where the pumpkins are)... so it was circumstantial evidence at best. (A VERY large bunny was the first thing I thought of when I saw the remains -- large as in Jimmy Stewart and Harvey! ;) While not our largest pumpkin (we have many fewer this year because of all the rain), it was a decent size :( I was intrigued at how all the seeds were scraped out too. Not a seed was left (and none on the ground around it, either).

Will definitely take your advice on the nest ... wasn't looking forward to trying to guess when it was "cold enough" !!

    Bookmark   October 11, 2009 at 2:03PM
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spedigrees z4VT

Deer have upper teeth, a full set of them. They simply do not have the pointy 'canine' teeth (for tearing flesh) among them, only front teeth for cutting grass and side and back teeth for grinding.

The hornets that built that nest should die out over the winter. I've heard of some colonies over-wintering, but I think that is only in much warmer climates. It gives me the creeps just looking at it though!

Hope the deer let your other pumpkins ripen.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2009 at 3:53PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Guess I should have been more specific and said upper front teeth:

'Members of the deer family, unlike most mammals, do not have any teeth in the front of the upper jawbone. Replacing the teeth is a resilient pad that makes contact with the lower incisors. Deer have 32 teeth: 8 incisors, 12 premolars, and 12 molars. They usually do not have any canine teeth.' (ref.kerrlake.com)

Not a deer dentist - just looked this stuff up. I didn't know that they are ruminants (4 chambered stomach). Room for many pumpkins, sorry.

Here is a link that might be useful: kerrlake-more deer info

    Bookmark   October 11, 2009 at 4:46PM
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sequoia54(z6a MA)

On the subject of wasp/hornet nests in winter--the Audubon Field Guide to Insects & Spiders states (checked entries for several different species) that only young mated females overwinter, and not in the old nest but "in the ground or under leaf litter." So there will be no defenders of the nest in January to come after you when you go after it, if it hasn't blown down by then.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2009 at 6:58PM
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lschibley

Just a suggestion, ctlady. See if you can get in contact with a science teacher at a local high school or a rep from a local audubon or other nature center with kids' activities. Something like that might be a valuable teaching tool to someone, assuming the wasps are gone for the winter come January.

Lisa

    Bookmark   October 11, 2009 at 11:03PM
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runktrun(z7a MA)

Wendy aka Nature Detective,
I had a nest in a more protected spot (Ilex glabra) and it fell apart by early winter. Those are some VERY big teeth, do you have any large roaming dogs in the neighborhood?

    Bookmark   October 12, 2009 at 7:50AM
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NHBabs(4b-5aNH)

We had a similar large wasp nest in a tree out in front of the house a couple of years ago. After a hard freeze the blue jays shredded it, I assume looking for a protein snack of dead wasps and eggs, and within 2 or 3 days it was gone.

Looks reasonably like deer eating your pumpkins to me with that size teeth.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2009 at 7:57AM
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spedigrees z4VT

I stand corrected, corunum. Interesting stuff about a 'resilient pad' in place of upper front teeth. I assumed (incorrectly) that all herbivores had the same dental configuration as horses.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2009 at 10:43AM
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ctlady_gw(z6 CT)

No large dogs roaming (that I know of!) though we most definitely have coyotes -- didn't hear them this summer (unusual) but have heard groups over the last few weeks. Would they eat pumpkins (if so, why??)

The mouth "pad" in deer is most curious...do all ruminants have one, I wonder? That's what I love about this forum -- you learn SO much stuff you never even knew you didn't know!!

    Bookmark   October 12, 2009 at 11:16AM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Okay - case almost closed. Deer caught eating pumpkins in photo-click link. Why Pumpkin over Zucchini, well, maybe they're just sick of zucchini by now.

We're a little smarter than we were yesterday and the only tuition was one pumpkin. Thanks for the lessons, Marty, lol.

Jane

Here is a link that might be useful: Pumpkin Eating Deer - Caught!

    Bookmark   October 12, 2009 at 11:28AM
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spedigrees z4VT

Wow that's a great picture. Did you take it, Jane, or just stumble upon it? The proof is in the photo.

I know many dogs will eat pumpkins, and it is good for them. It has enzymes in it often lacking from their food. I often add a teaspoon of cooked winter squash or pumpkin to my dogs' food. It doesn't seem too surprising that deer like them too, since deer eat a variety of other vegetables.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2009 at 12:52PM
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hunt4carl

"Why pumpkin over zucchinni?"

Because pumpkin has proven to be a highly-nutritious "super-food", packed with vitamins, protein and complex carbohydrates, while "yuk"inni is merely
green-covered squash water. . .and deer, of course, have read up on these things. . .

No one suggested a woodchuck. . .not possible, or are they all asleep already in Zone 5 ?

Carl

    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 12:47PM
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spedigrees z4VT

---and deer, of course, have read up on these things. . .--

LOL They know more than we give them credit for! And they are smart enough to select healthy food over junk food.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 3:12PM
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