Is chipmunk the culprit? Most tomatoes eaten :(

djkj(9b)July 22, 2014

Saw a lot of my tomatoes eaten. Looks like the work of a chipmunk? Or is it birds? Looks like the top tomatoes were also eaten so either the chipmunk climbed over the cage or its birds?

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Wow, I've never seen birds eat that way/much...but where are you ?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 1:08PM
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I'm sure you've heard this before, but I'll write it anyhow: chewed tomatoes is a prima facie sign of thirsty beasts, especially in zone 9! If these are on a drip system then the remedy for such thirst is easy and work free. There seem to be a whole slew of possible culprits though.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 1:15PM
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Interestingly, I thought it was voles (I have a few in my garden). So set out some traps with apple slices. The trap did set but caught a few "long hairs" - which is why I am suspecting chipmunks. I don't see them, even early morning. I think these squirrels/chipmunks need to go into a humane galvanized box and released. Too much destruction for me to handle :(

I am in Zone 9.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 1:52PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Where in Zone 9?

If in SoCal, roof rats are a good bet.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 3:22PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

Geez........that's alot of destruction! I would say it's a bigger pest than chipmunks. Wow.......bummer!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 5:08PM
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Yes I am in SoCal.

catherinet, what else could it be - bigger than chipmunks? Its a fenced garden.I am suspecting either voles or chipmunks looking at how the shreds are thrown around.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 5:12PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

That seems like too much damage for voles, I have problems with them here... and they tend to eat from the bottom, or from the back side, where they can do so from concealment. That also seems like too much damage to be caused by a single animal (other than deer) so there is probably a group involved.

Bird damage would be my first guess - especially if that is debris that I see on the ground below the plants. Rodents seldom leave debris behind as they feed, and birds feeding would explain why all the damage faces outward. Grubby_me has a good point about animals - or birds - seeking a water source. A flock of goldfinches destroyed an entire row of foot-high chard in my garden several years ago; I had to catch them in the act to believe it. Up until then, I thought they were my friends, and welcomed their constant presence in the garden... it turns out they were just waiting for me to leave. :-( All it took to stop the damage was floating row cover.

Two other possibilities, both of which I experienced when I gardened in California:

Rats can form a colony outdoors if there is dense landscaping nearby, and a colony of rats could easily cause that much damage. When I lived in San Jose, I had rats living in a dense ivy vine that covered the fence... when I pruned the growth back & eliminated their hiding places, they moved elsewhere.

Ground squirrels are another possibility, and they wouldn't even need to be nearby, as they will forage quite some distance in all directions - especially if they find a rich food source. When I lived in San Jose, I had a garden in Palo Alto on a utility easement; the ground squirrels were in a pile of concrete on the edge of the property, about 300 feet from the garden... they would all run back to the colony as I approached. In San Diego, the colony causing the damage was almost 500 feet away! Ground squirrels feed during the day, though, so you would probably see them running away from you at some point. If they find a good feeding site far from the colony, they will dig shallow bolt holes nearby to run to - something to look for. The holes can be cleverly concealed beneath foliage.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 6:43PM
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Thanks zeedman - Lots of good inputs. The damage seems to be done at night and if they were voles the rat traps would have caught them (and not just catch some long hair). Which is why I suspected squirrels or chipmunks. Not sure if anything else could have mammal-like hairs (I could see the roots of the gray hair in the rat trap). Raccoons? Maybe. Not sure thought but raccoons also feed at night. Interestingly the rat trap that set off was just under a ledge where I have spotted one chipmunk.

I am getting some big galvanized cages to trap the squirrel if that is the culprit. And yes will keep a bowl of water just in case its thirsty birds.

Deer is out of the question because my small garden is sealed from all sides. I did not see vole holes but I will look under foliage. Late evening I sometimes see some rats (or voles) though. In any case, this kind of destruction is very annoying.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 7:00PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Roof rats are common even in cities in SoCal. (I had rat damage exactly like that on my tomatoes while living in Long Beach.)

I wonder if the damage is so extensive because of the drought in CA?

Are you residential or rural?

This post was edited by jean001a on Tue, Jul 22, 14 at 19:43

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 7:42PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

If it is because they are thirsty, maybe by putting some saucers of water out there for them, they'd quit chewing on the tomatoes?

Any poop left behind?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 7:57PM
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I think most of you were right about the roof rats! I think this is a roof rat, right? Doesnt look like a vole. My TomCat caught one today and the bugger ate the very last plump tomato as well. Seems like they are voracious eaters!! TomCat will be back!

This post was edited by djkj on Thu, Jul 24, 14 at 12:24

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:22PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Not sure if I understand the term "roof rat" as used by several West Coast posters, to me that always meant squirrels? That looks like a black rat, in which case you can bet there are more of them.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 11:48PM
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