What's chomping on my peppers?

2ajsmamaJuly 30, 2014

Remember I said I had some broken branches, low and on a few plants close to each other? Well, I found more, and then maybe 30 ft away in another bed I found a Hinkelhatz with chomped lower growth and a HOLE dug next to it! I poked a wire down in and hit solid dirt (beds are about 8" of nice loose composted horse manure/bedding on top of compacted sandy loam on top of ledge).

So I don't think something tunneled up, but there wasn't any dirt thrown around from digging either (or piled in a hill from tunneling up). Wondering what the varmint could be and what I can do - the plant(s) look OK other than some nibbled lower growth, whatever it is isn't disturbing the roots yet.

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vedabeeps

I go outside and check my garden for holes like that every morning. The big holes with dirt everywhere are racoons, the little holes like that are skunks. I just re-bury the roots of the plant and put something around them, if I can, and once the plant is larger they seem to be able to withstand the occasional digging at it's roots.

Do you have skunks in your area?

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 1:56PM
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2ajsmama

Oh yeah, we've got everything. Well, if you think this is a larger critter digging down and not tunneling up (like I said I hit the solid dirt, the area had been compacted when it was leveled) then I guess I should just get some netting or something along the sides of the tunnel and the end walls built even if I wait another month to put plastic on.

I had some bean plants nibbled early this year in the fenced (with CRW, 6x6 openings) area, figured that was rabbits but have never seen anything like this. It wasn't deer - I put old 3-ring tomato cages along the side of the bed to discourage them, plus they would have chomped the tops.

I did fill the hole back in - hope I don't lose this plant, wouldn't you know it's the one I bagged to save seed!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 8:16PM
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2ajsmama

This means war! No new pictures since I didn't take my phone out, but hole in the same spot and now half the plant was chomped off and left on the ground. Darn critter isn't even *eating* it, just destroying that one plant (others are untouched since yesterday). This picture is from yesterday.

I took the 9-gauge wire and poked down in the hole again, all around, hit solid enough dirt to bend the wire so I don't *think* it's tunneling up - and I can't see an entrance anywhere around. I even pulled up the landscape fabric in the aisle next to the bed to see if it went under the front edge and then up, couldn't find any evidence of entry there.

So whatever it is is a very neat digger, no soil thrown around but what is it about this one spot and this one plant, and why is it chomping the branches close to the lignified stem, right at the top of the TP roll, and then leaving them there - the leaves aren't even nibbled!

I've got a HavaHeart trap, could put that out, but don't know what to bait it with. I stuck the wire hoop in the area where the hole was (filled it back in) and the other end across the aisle, just to discourage the critter from digging there again but I wonder if it will move to a new spot farther down the bed? I've got 60ft of peppers on that side of the tunnel.

The tomatoes in the middle row and the plants on the opposite side wall are untouched.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 1:02PM
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DMForcier(8 DFW)

It's possible the something wants that particular patch of ground cleared. But why?

Peanut butter is the universal bait.

Dennis

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 1:52PM
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woohooman

There IS a hole? Are you sure? Because, the only thing I can think of that cuts down a plant at soil level at leaves the plant untouched is cutworms.

I'm with Dennis... peanut butter for many rodents/critters. Carrots and lettuce maybe also.

Kevin

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 2:07PM
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2ajsmama

Kevin - that's why the TP collar - no problems with cutworms, this plant (and the others earlier) was chomped - or broken - above the collar. Yep, about 6 inch deep (as far as I can tell by looking, I didn't want to stick my fingers in) hole in 8" deep compost.

Yeah, if it is a skunk digging for worms or something, why only this one spot? I don't know if I really want to catch a skunk - did that last year and thank goodness the trap was too small for it to lift its tail but DH wasn't happy opening the cage in case it decided to retaliate once it got out. And he's going camping Sunday so I've got to deal with whatever I catch by myself unless it's in the next couple of days ;-)

My uncle is looking for someone to watch his puggle overnight - think I can tie him out there Sunday? Or would a 25-lb "lap dog" be coyote/bear bait? (JK)

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 3:56PM
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2ajsmama

DH says he doesn't want to catch another skunk.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 6:58PM
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ironmike_usmc zone 6A CT

Is a just a hole from digging, or a little tunnel? Believe it or not, chipmunk burrowed an intricate tunnel system like the Vietnam war in my yard. I didn't even know they could do that. I thought they just lived in the trees. I almost twisted my ankle mowing my lawn a few times. I originally thought it was a skunk digging for grubs, until I caught a few chipmunks diving into the holes. Not sure if they'd be munchin on your plants, though. If it is chipmunks, a Have a Heart trap probably won't work, the critters are too small. They'll crawl right through the side of the cage.
x2 what Kevin said. Spread some peanut butter on some crackers. Rodents love it.

Mike

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 7:58PM
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woohooman

ajs: yeah. I thought that you were using the TP collar for cutworms, but I thought I'd ask.

My experience with critters is limited. Gophers and an occasional rat(I think) is all I ever get here in suburbia. We get skunks, coons and possums but they're pretty controlled by the coyotes and my Chow I'm sure they get in the neighbors' backyards, but not mine on her watch!

Good luck, I hope you find it soon. Gophers do me one plant at a time also. I eventually get them before they get me TOO bad.

Kevin

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 10:34PM
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2ajsmama

Could be breakage not munching - I'll see if the wire stuck in caused it to move elsewhere or give up. If the hole is there today (or somewhere else in the bed) I do have a little piece of hardware cloth I can make a cage from and try to cage that one plant.

DH says if I put out a PB trap it could attract something other than the culprit (like the skunk he caught last year) so doesn't want to trap. I've got to go for deterrents. I really have to enclose the tunnel, but even after I get end walls and plastic up, I'd be leaving the sides rolled up for ventilation, so critters can still get in there. I'd have to look for netting along the bottom and then pull the rolled-up plastic down over it when I want to button it up in the fall.

I just don't want to spend a fortune on hardware cloth, wondering if plastic bird netting would be good enough or if something would chew through it? I've got to go with hardware cloth around my berries next year - ripe berries are just sooo tempting! I hope worms or whatever this thing was digging for (and later, peppers and tomatoes) aren't quite so tempting.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 7:12AM
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