Mid-summer through early fall means it’s eggplant season, and if you’re anything like me, you’re excited about a bountiful harvest! Eggplant is versatile enough to include in everything from stir fry to eggplant parmesan, so there’s no telling what tasty meals you’ll have in store for fall.
Unfortunately, many animals love eating your eggplants. If you find damage to your eggplants, deer, voles, woodchucks, chipmunks, squirrels, mice, rats, raccoons, snails, and slugs may be responsible. Your strategy to keep them away could range from installing fencing to using natural repellents.
Since it can take several months to grow some hearty, plump eggplants, it hurts to peek into your garden and find they’ve been devoured overnight. But, with some preparation and preventative measures, you can keep these critters away!
Read on for a breakdown of which animals might be responsible and how to repel them.
- Various animals will eat eggplant, including woodchucks, chipmunks, raccoons, and voles.
- Inspect the damage on eggplants to identify which animal is responsible.
- Generate a deterrent program based on the identified animal, as one method may not work for all animals.
1. Chipmunks Or Squirrels Might Be Responsible
Chipmunks and squirrels prefer to chomp on the eggplant fruit itself rather than the leaves. If your garden plants’ leaves have been left untouched, but the fruit is mysteriously missing, then you might have a squirrel problem on your hands.
They’re most active in the early morning and at dusk, so you might not see them while they commit eggplant theft.
You may have other plants in your garden that are attracting squirrels and chipmunks, too. You can read more about the plants that squirrels love here to see if you have them in your garden!
Save Your Eggplant From Squirrels and Chipmunks
Chipmunks and squirrels are expert climbers, so they won’t be bothered by fencing and raised garden beds. As foragers, they might even like the extra effort to get to their snack.
One common solution to a squirrel problem is to simply distract the critters with a more enticing snack. It’s no secret that squirrels like nuts and seeds, so they’ll take those over your eggplant any day. Try setting up a squirrel feeder a distance away from your garden. This will be their first choice of snack, and they’ll leave your garden alone.
You can also try netting, lids, or scents squirrels hate to keep them away. Sprays made with peppermint oil, garlic, or rosemary can be an effective deterrent.
Squirrels also don’t care for plants such as daffodils, hyacinths, and geraniums. Plant a flower garden nearby, enjoy the beautiful sight, and say goodbye to pesky squirrels!
2. Raccoons Won’t Say No To Eggplant
As foragers, raccoons are notorious for eating anything they can access. From garbage to freshly grown eggplants, they’ll happily raid your garden if it’s convenient — eggplant included!
Similar to chipmunks and squirrels, raccoons will grab the eggplant fruit and leave the rest of the plant alone. They may even snatch it up in their little claws and run off with it to eat elsewhere!
How To Kick Out Raccoons
Raccoons can be quite wily, which makes them harder to deter than other animals eating your eggplants.
Raccoons are smarter, stronger, and more dexterous than most other garden-raiding animals, and they’re good with their paws. This means they may be able to simply lift any protective cages or netting around your plants! Raccoons have even been known to open doors and latches. You can read about how raccoons open doors, windows, and locks here.
Your best bet is to make your yard and neighborhood uncomfortable for raccoons. Make sure they have no easily accessible food, such as compost or a garbage bin. Scout your property to ensure there are no den-ready locations for them, such as a shed or open area under your porch.
You can try filling the area with strong scents they don’t like, such as onion and garlic. Sprinkling Epsoak Agricultural Epsom Salt around your yard has also been known to deter raccoons — on top of acting like a fertilizer for your plants!
You can read about what attracts raccoons to your yard and try to eliminate anything that might lure them into your garden.
3. Do Deer Devour Eggplant?
Deer generally don’t prefer eggplant fruit or leaves, although they’ll eat anything if they’re hungry. While some of the other animals on this list might be more likely, inspecting the damage for clues is worth your time.
Since deer are larger animals, you can generally spot their tracks in the dirt. They will also bite off large parts of the leaves, rather than the smaller nibbles you’d see from smaller animals. Check to see if entire leaves were removed from their stems. If so, it might be a deer!
Discourage Those Deer!
Barriers such as a tall fence are one of the most straightforward ways to deter any animals — deer included. However, since deer are larger, the fence must also be larger. Factoring in their ability to jump, a fence around your garden or property should be at least 7-8 feet high.
Since deer can be quite timid, you can also try motion-acted stimuli for your yard, such as the Orbit Motion-Activated Sprinkler. A device like this can effectively scare away animals 24/7, so you can sleep easy at night.
If you catch these rascally animals red-handed (or red-hoofed!) in your garden, you can read about the sounds and noises that’ll scare deer away to make them bound in the opposite direction.
4. Mice And Rats Are Known To Nibble Eggplant
Small rodents like mice and rats are notorious for eating anything. Since eggplants can be low to the ground and easy to reach, they’re a quick snack for these animals.
While deer prefer leaves and raccoons prefer fruit, mice and rats will eat anything they can get their claws on. They’ll chomp on everything from the leaves to the eggplant fruit itself.
And they’re sneaky, too! Mice and rats are good climbers, so they might be able to scurry up a raised garden bed. They’re also small enough to squeeze through small vulnerabilities in your garden’s netting or cage.
How To Keep Mice And Rats Away
You can make your garden less enticing to mice and rats by keeping it tidy. Weed your garden regularly and make sure there aren’t any rocks, garden ornaments, or debris where they can hide.
If they leave behind scraps of half-eaten food, remove those as well. Otherwise, they and other animals may be more tempted to return! This goes for your compost bin, too. Rats may be tempted by the scraps inside, so move your compost away from your garden.
Thoroughly plow your plot after each garden season, too. This will remove any leftover or half-buried food and destroy tunnels and burrows, making the area less hospitable to mice and rats overall.
Of course, you can always try using repellant, too. Tomcat Repellents Rodent Repellent is one choice on the market that you can use inside or outside. Rather than poison, it’s made from essential oils that give off a scent and taste that rats can’t stand.
Peppermint is another common scent that rodents like mice and rats can’t stand. You can read more about how to use peppermint to repel mice and rats here!
5. Do Slugs And Snails Snack On Eggplant?
These slimy little pests are active at night and always looking for a tasty meal. Snails and slugs especially love to snack on any leaves or fruit close to the ground since they can reach them without effort.
So yes, they are known to eat eggplant! They may find your garden especially enticing later in the season when your eggplants are heavy and droop low enough to touch the ground.
When it comes to slugs and snails, you can usually identify their damage by large holes in the eggplant leaves. You may also spot a silvery trail of mucus that they leave behind.
How Can You Keep Slugs And Snails Away?
Similar to rats and mice, these sneaky mollusks like having a place to hide. To deter them from your garden, make sure to keep the area clean and tidy. Remove weeds, stones, and other places where they may hide during the day.
If you’re an early riser, you may be able to manually remove snails and slugs in the morning before they hide for the day. Of course, not everyone wants to handle snails or slugs — even while wearing gloves.
Another option is to try slug and snail repellant, such as Garden Safe 4536 Slug & Snail Bait. Simply scatter the bait on the soil around your garden, and the bait will take effect within a few days.
You can also try planting slug-repelling herbs such as rosemary, basil, and chives. These herbs might smell fresh and aromatic to you, but slugs can’t stand them! If you try this method, just be sure to plant enough to give off a strong scent. You can read more about the scents that slugs hate here.
6. Voles Enjoy Eggplant, Too
Voles are yet another common culprit of eggplant theft. These little critters usually strike at night, so you might not notice the damage they’ve caused until it’s too late.
Typically, voles prefer to chew leaves and stems. Sometimes the damage looks similar to cutworms, so inspect the leaves closely. You can also look for droppings or vole tunnels nearby to confirm that they’re to blame.
Voles spend a lot of time in their underground burrow systems, which is also how they get around. The easiest way to confirm voles in the area is by looking for their aboveground runways. The University of California tells us that these well-traveled runways through the grass are about an inch and a half wide and connect the entrances to their burrows.
How To Stop Voles From Eating Your Eggplant
Voles are burrowers, so they have no problem tunneling right into your garden. Common barriers, such as fencing or netting, won’t keep your eggplants safe!
Raised garden beds or garden beds with a bottom can prevent voles from tunneling through. Voles are poor climbers, so they will leave your garden alone and look for an easier meal.
Voles reproduce quickly, so vole populations can get out of hand if you choose to ignore them.
Discourage them from settling into your property by trimming bushes, mowing grass, and in general reducing the amount of vegetative cover where they could hide. You can read more about the things that voles hate here, so you can implement them in your yard.
7. Would A Woodchuck Chomp Eggplant?
Yes, they would!
Woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, typically prefer corn and peas, but they’ll help themselves to other veggies when available. They especially like young plants and will mow them down.
Groundhogs have a habit of trampling plants as they feed on your garden. This makes their presence in your garden even more frustrating! They are not only gobbling up your hard work, but they’re stomping down the rest of your plants while at it.
Protect Your Eggplants From Woodchucks
Like other small mammals, physical barricades are the easiest way to keep woodchucks out. Install a fence or raise your garden beds, and your precious eggplants will be safe and sound from their greedy little paws.
You can also try employing strong-smelling scents to use as a deterrent. Sprays made from garlic, onion, and essential oils, can help make woodchucks turn up their nose at your yard. For a complete list, check out our article on the scents that groundhogs hate.
8. Are Birds Biting Your Eggplant?
Although it’s less common, birds may snack on your eggplants from time to time. They are especially fond of seeds and fruits. Ground birds, such as chickens, may wander in and peck around.
Birds often peck at their food. If you take a look at the eggplant and find holes poked into the flesh, it might have been caused by a bird.
That said, birds aren’t always a bad thing. More than the eggplant itself, birds like snapping up the pests ON your eggplant. If you see a bird perched by your garden, watch for a moment to see if they’re hurting or helping. They may be eating the caterpillars, mites, or beetles that are nibbling on your eggplant leaves.
Say Bye To Birds
Birds eating your eggplant can be frustrating because they peck at high-up fruit and aren’t deterred by raised garden beds. However, you can still prevent them from getting to your veggies and ruining your hard work.
If chickens are to blame, a simple barrier such as a fence will usually be enough to keep them out. For wild birds, try draping netting over your garden, such as Faraer’s Garden Mesh Netting.
If you’d rather not mess with netting, you can also try a good old-fashioned scarecrow.
For best results, find a scarecrow that will occasionally move, whether through electronic or wind-powered means. Reflective pinwheels or fake birds such as this GiftExpress Owl Decoy are popular among gardeners.
Another option is to plant things that birds hate next to your eggplants. This can discourage birds from approaching your eggplants altogether!
9. Wild Pigs Love Fruits And Veggies, Including Eggplant
Depending on where you live, there might be wild pigs inhabiting the woods nearby.
Pigs are always on the hunt for a snack, and eggplants are no exception. They eat a wide variety of vegetation, and if your eggplants are readily available, they’ll have no problem helping themselves.
Stop Pigs From Hogging Your Eggplants
Like deer, pigs tend to avoid open areas. Clear out the area around your garden and try installing a sturdy fence around your garden or property.
Pigs can be strong — especially when hungry — so the fence should be secure and firmly planted. Make sure there is no room at the bottom for the pig to crawl underneath.
Wild pigs can weigh up to 220 pounds and can be dangerous when threatened. While they are shy and generally mild-tempered if left at a distance, they are also known to have short tempers. If there are wild pigs on your property, get in touch with a professional by using our nationwide pest control finder, and do not attempt to approach one on your own.
What About Rabbits?
Many gardeners are familiar with rabbits and their notorious taste for just about anything you’re trying to grow.
However, it’s unlikely that rabbits are eating your eggplants!
Eggplants are part of the Solanaceae plant family, which contains a glycoalkaloid known as solanine. These glycoalkaloids are bitter-tasting and toxic to some small animals, including rabbits. It’s a defense mechanism that eggplants develop to defend against certain animals and insects.
Eggplants don’t contain as much solanine as other plants in the Solanaceae family, but it’s still enough to deter certain herbivores like rabbits. Eggplant leaves and tops are more toxic than fruit, and since rabbits tend to prefer leaves over fruit, they generally give eggplants a wide berth.
How To Identify What Is Eating Your Eggplant
When it comes to protecting your eggplant, it can be difficult to figure out which animal is to blame. Once you know that, you can pick the most effective deterrent.
If you have some kind of security system or have caught the animal in the act, you may already know who has been happily munching away. If not, here are a few tips for figuring out which animal is responsible for eating your eggplants:
|Look for distinctive footprints or tracks near the eggplant patch, which can indicate the animal.
|Examine the area for animal droppings, as different animals leave behind unique droppings.
|Inspect the eggplants for bite marks or damage that can reveal the type of animal feeding on them.
|Keep an eye out for the animal itself, as observing it can provide a direct identification.
|Listen for specific sounds or calls that may indicate the presence of a particular animal.
What Else Could Be Damaging My Eggplant?
Animals aren’t the only ones who enjoy eggplant. If you don’t think any of the above animals were responsible for eating your eggplants, there’s a chance the damage was caused by bugs or plant disease.
Bugs And Insects
We won’t dive too deep into bugs and diseases here, but generally speaking, beetles, aphids, caterpillars, and mites are common pests that enjoy eggplant. Insects and bugs tend to nibble on the leaves more than the eggplant fruit itself.
To learn more about this topic, check out our article on the bugs and insects that love eating your eggplant. It might give you a clue as to which bug is responsible!
As for plant diseases, a few different blights could be to blame. Some, such as Phytophthora Blight, can be caused by overwatering and excessive soil moisture. Other diseases are caused by issues with the soil.
Lack Of Crop Rotation Can Spoil Eggplants
You should avoid planting your eggplant where other members of the Solanaceae plant family have been in the last three years. This includes potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, and other eggplants.
In short, don’t always plant your eggplant in the same spot!
Simply rotate in other types of plants. This can be anything from gourds (melons, squash, and pumpkins), leafy greens (cabbage, kale, broccoli), grasses (corn and grain), or bulbs (onions and garlic).
Wrapping Things Up
After all the time and hard work that grows into cultivating the perfect eggplants, it makes sense that you’d want to protect your harvest however you can.
Even though eggplant isn’t the first pick for a lot of animals, they’ll eat it if they’re hungry. Animals that love eating your eggplant include:
- Chipmunks and squirrels
- Mice and rats
- Slugs and snails
- Wild pigs
Insects or plant diseases could also be responsible for the damage to your eggplants, so inspect the situation closely to figure out what’s to blame.
Once you know which critter is helping themselves to fresh eggplant, you can start trying a solution to keep them away.
- Physical barriers – Fencing, netting, cages, or raised garden beds can protect your eggplants from most of these critters. Each one will have different efficacy based on the animal’s size, intelligence, and ability to dig or climb.
- Scent-based deterrents – Repellants are also effective for many pesky snackers! Repellants are always a good option to try since they tend to be low-cost and low-investment compared to installing a strong fence.
However, scent repellants won’t work if it’s not strong enough. Reapply it frequently, consistently, and always after rain or a storm. If you don’t have luck with one scent, try another!
- Scare tactics – Employing sights or sounds, such as reflective pinwheels or a motion-activated water sprinkler, can frighten wild animals and send them running in the opposite direction.
That’s not to mention the best scare tactic of all – a dog! If you have a dog, let your furry pal loose in the backyard to chase away squirrels and mice.
Finally, remember you don’t have to handle a pest problem alone. If you feel like you’ve tried everything and just can’t protect your eggplants, get in touch with a professional. Find an expert near you using our nationwide pest control finder and let a professional do what they do best.
Barceloux, D. G. (2009). Potatoes, tomatoes, and solanine toxicity (Solanum tuberosum L., Solanum lycopersicum L.). Disease-a-month, 55(6), 391-402.
Marsh, R. E., Erickson, W. A., & Salmon, T. P. (1992). Scarecrows and predator models for frightening birds from specific areas. In Proceedings of the Vertebrate Pest Conference (Vol. 15, No. 15).
Ramasamy S. (2009). Insect and Mite Pests on Eggplant: A Field Guide for Identification and Management. AVRDC — The World Vegetable Center, Shanhua, Taiwan. AVRDC Publication No. 09-729.
Salmon, T. P., & Lickliter, R. E. (2006). Wildlife pest control around gardens and homes (Vol. 21385). UCANR Publications.
Schlub, R. L., & Yudin, L. S. (2002). Eggplant, pepper, and tomato production guide for Guam.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
Download My Free E-Book!
Take a look at my guide on Pest Proofing Your Home In Under a Day! I get into the nitty-gritty on the most common types of pests you’ll see on your property including BOTH insects and wildlife, along with the specific signs to look for regarding any pest you have questions about.