Apples are a favorite fruit to many and make a quick and easy snack for the days when we’re on the go, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that apples, and all their varieties, are also a favorite snack to many wildlife creatures.
While your backyard and apple tree grove will look different depending on what area of the world you live in, here are 12 common animals that will gladly snag some fruit from your apple tree:
Now, we know that your trees may not fall prey to all of these animals, but let’s take a look at each of these critters and see what kind of damage they’re capable of, as well as how you can keep them away from your trees to produce a plentiful apple harvest.
Deer Absolutely Love Eating Apples From Your Apple Tree
Deer love to eat fruit as they come across it and apples are most certainly a preferred menu choice. What makes deer a bit more of a challenge to deal with is that they can grow quite tall and are quite sprightly.
If you have a fenceless orchard or even an unsteady fence, these creatures can easily hop over and eat apples right off the tree itself, as well as leaves and any other plants you may be growing.
Naturally, orchards tall fencing to stop deer and other large animals from getting into the orchard but often times, especially in older orchards, deer find their way inside the fence.
How To Keep Deer Away From Your Apples
One of the most common ways to help keep pests out of a particular area is to add a barrier. Like we mentioned with deer though, they can easily hop over short fences or those that aren’t well built and depending on the number of trees you have, a fence could get costly.
Other than adding a fence or other barrier to help protect your trees, here are some other tactics you can use to keep deer away from your apple trees:
Hang A Bar Of Soap From Your Trees
Oh yes, you read that right – bar soap. Because deer have such a strong sense of smell, adding strong scents near a potential food source is a great way to deter deer from snacking on what they shouldn’t be.
If you buy a few bars of Irish Spring, you can easily quarter each bar, pierce it, and hang it from your tree branches with string. This option won’t necessarily be a permanent fix, but the soap will remain effective for several weeks before you have to restring fresh bars.
Another hanging deer deterrent perfect for your trees is Plant Saver Deer Repellent. You can scoop this product into the provided bags and hang them on your tree branches for an extra layer of protection. This product also lasts longer – anywhere from three to six months depending on how full you pack the bags.
Add Motion Sensor Lights Near Your Apple Trees
Deer can be a little jumpy – no pun intended. But because they have to be aware of their surroundings in case predators enter the area, adding a motion-sensing light could be enough to scare the deer (and their predators!) off.
In addition to these well-proven methods of repelling deer, you can also try some more experimental methods. For example, many people think strong scents like vinegar can repel deer. Read more about it on our article on using vinegar to deter deer!
Mice Love Eating Apples Fallen From Trees
We know that some folks keep mice as pets, so in this instance, we’ll focus on the mice that aren’t a part of our family pact.
Fruits like apples can lure rodents near, especially if fallen apples turn rotten and linger at the base of your tree. And since apples are such a sweet and juicy treat, once the area becomes a known food source, this can lead to a potential mouse infestation that we wouldn’t wish upon anyone.
How To Keep Mice Away From Your Apple Tree
Mice are a common pest to several fruits and vegetables, and luckily there are some ways to repel these creatures as well.
- Clean up fallen apples. Because mice will frequently make a meal out of fallen apples, ensuring that the area under your apple trees is clean is a must.
Now, we know that depending on the number of trees you have, this will be a weekly chore at best, but in addition to getting rid of a food source for these pests, you’re also creating a safer area for yourself to tend to your trees.
- Put your cat to work. If you have an outdoor cat, they may make the perfect lookout for these creatures. In addition to catching any current mice population, their presence will also deter new mice from coming into the area.
- Call a professional. If you notice that you have a large population of mice in your orchard area, don’t delay and reach out to your local pest professional for help. A certified specialist will be able to help determine the source the mice are coming from and help you determine the most effective method of elimination.
You can also use some of the primary scents that mice hate to confuse their sense of smell and keep them away!
Bears Snack On Apples Right From The Tree
You might be surprised that such a massive creature could make our list, and don’t get us wrong – a bear needs more than just apples to meet their 90 pounds a day food requirement.
That said though, apples and other fruits can easily make up a portion of a bear’s diet, especially if your trees are easily accessible.
Did you know that fruit trees are a common bear attractant? For more information, read up on our article on the 11 scents that attract bears.
How To Keep Bears Off Your Apple Tree
Bears spend a lot of their time trying to gain access to food, so they aren’t always easily deterred.
In addition to fencing and keeping the number of fallen apples to a minimum, here are our top recommendations for keeping these large predators out of your apple trees:
Move Your Compost Bin
While keeping a compost bin near your trees seems like an easy and effective option to assist in keeping the ground clear, compost bins are a potential buffet for bears.
If you have a compost bin near your trees, we recommend moving it to a far corner of your yard, or at least away from any trees or other plants that you wouldn’t want a bear getting into.
If you can, we also recommend adding a lid to your compost bin for an added layer of protection, even though these creatures may be able to remove it.
Use Noise Deterrents
Sometimes loud noises can be enough to frighten off these large apple lovers. If you’re in an area where these creatures are known to roam, we recommend keeping a horn like the SABRE Frontiersman Bear Horn handy in case of a bear spotting.
Raccoons Love Eating Apples Off Trees
We know that these critters have the lovely nickname of trash pandas because of their diet, and while we may not love the name, we do agree that raccoons will eat pretty much anything.
Since these creatures aren’t picky, not only will they sneak and steal fresh apples directly from your trees and picking baskets, they’re happy to pick fallen apples off the ground to snack off of too – even if the apples have turned rotten!
How To Keep Raccoons Away From Your Apple Trees
Because raccoons have learned to cohabitate with humans in a variety of circumstances, getting rid of them can be quite the undertaking, especially if you’re dealing with a family of these creatures.
- Trim low-hanging branches. Since these critters can stretch, make sure to maintain and cut any low-hanging branches that raccoons may be able to reach from the ground. Keeping a trimmed tree should minimize activity within the tree itself.
- Contact a professional to place live traps. If you’re comfortable with catch and release, setting live traps is a way to capture or cage the raccoons, and then you can contact a professional who can bring them to a local wildlife facility or preserve area where they won’t be able to eat or otherwise damage your trees.
- Limit other raccoon attractants on your property. This is a big one – make sure you have as many things as possible picked up in your yard (garbage, pet food, compost scraps, etc.) and keep your grass trimmed.
You can learn more about keeping raccoons away in general in our guide on the best raccoon repellents!
Turkeys Love To Go After Apples On Apple Trees
Turkeys love to eat a variety of foods from insects and seeds to plants and worms. Generally, these animals also love fruits so it’s no surprise that apples are on the top of their list.
Turkeys won’t turn down a good meal, and while they’re likely to be on the search for fallen apples in your yard, they may also be tearing at the ground and pecking in search of additional snacks to appease their appetite.
Best Ways To Keep Turkeys Away From Your Apples
Like many animals, when turkeys can find an easy food source, they’ll stick around for the long haul. Here are some tips on how to ensure you’re not welcoming these creatures to your yard:
- Clean up any easy access to food. Whether this means raking up fallen apples, relocating your bird feeder, or making sure your compost and garbage bins are covered, getting rid of any extra temptation is a good thing.
- Add water. Turkeys aren’t the biggest water lovers, so if a sprinkler system is in your budget, this would help keep your trees watered and also deter these critters from eating your trees. I really love the Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer, which is a motion activated sprinkler that works well again any medium sized pest on this list!
Depending on the type of system you’re looking at, motion detecting sprinklers could also get your livestock wet as well if they’re allowed to roam, so be sure to explore a variety of systems before choosing “the one.”
Apple Trees Provide Easy Food For Birds
It may be surprising to learn that smaller species of birds can eat apples just like our larger feathered bird mentioned above. With all the variety of beaks in the world though, it’s easy to see how some of these birds are able to still pick at apples.
How To Keep Birds Off Your Apples
Birds will put their beaks to work to help pierce apples from your tree and then they’re able to shred and tear pieces off for easier eating. Because these creatures can fly, they’re also able to get to your apples whether the fruit is still in the trees, or if they’ve fallen to the ground.
Despite their flight ability, there are still ways to deter birds from your apple trees:
Keep Your Apple Trees Covered
Depending on the size of your tree, this one might pose a challenge, but draping netting over the top of your tree and securing it at the bottom of the truck adds a layer of protection. Check out these Tree Covering Bags to see if they’d be a good fit for your fruit trees!
While covering your tree, be sure that your apples are tucked inside the netting, but not pressed up against it. If the apples remain visible against the netting, birds may still be able to pick at the fruit through the holes which would defeat its main purpose.
Use A Predator Decoy
Adding predator decoys to your tree will help scare off any birds looking for a meal. A fake owl or large black bird strategically placed can do wonders to keep other birds away.
Add Wind Chimes Near The Tree
These noises will help frighten birds away from your trees, thus leaving your trees out of harm’s way.
Larger birds though, may not be as impacted by these sounds, so we recommend pairing this option with another method to ensure success. You could also add some reflective bird tape that will make it a bit more troublesome for birds to land near the tree! Here’s some more info on using wind chimes to deter birds.
Goats Love Snacking On Apples
Apples are a part of a goat’s regular diet, so it’s not unusual to see these creatures crunching on a juicy apple if they get the chance. In addition to the fruit from your apple trees, these creatures may also eat the bark off of the trunk itself!
For your apples, goats aren’t too particular about where they come from. Goats are happy to eat apples that have fallen to the ground, but because they’re such great climbers, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to see these animals stretching up into your apple trees to secure the perfect bite either.
Now, of course you may have goats AND an apple tree rather than wild goats coming into your property – as it’s probably more likely. Still – check out the tips below!
How To Keep Goats Away From Your Apples
- Fence in your goats. If you have goats as a part of your livestock, fencing them in may be the first step in keeping them away from your fruit trees. Depending on the number of goats you have, this may mean fencing in a relatively large area though, which may not be in your current budget.
- Provide alternative food sources. Mullein is a plant with some benefits to yourself and your livestock. Other than being a food source for goats, this plant helps deter other pests (like deer), is weed resistant, and can also be eaten by humans! Triple threat!
If your goats have a regular food source and know where it’s located, they’ll head to their daily food source before roaming to find a new one. So, whether you feed your goats in their enclosure or they have free roam over your fields, making sure that they know where their food is will help keep them away from your apple trees.
Opossums Can Easily Eat Apples Off Trees
Opossums are relatively similar to raccoons in their diets but are assured that there are many differences between these two creatures. For example, opossums will eat a variety of animals, as well as vegetables and fruits.
When it comes to protecting your apple trees, opossums will generally keep to the ground and eat any that have fallen or have been knocked off by other animals, but some opossums are good climbers and will climb your trees to find a snack if it’s not more readily accessible.
How To Keep Opossums Away From Your Apple Trees
Several of our suggestions for other apple-loving creatures also apply to the opossum including:
- Fencing in your trees or orchard area.
- Cleaning up fallen apples.
It’s also helpful to consider the reason why the opossum is in your yard. Oftentimes, opossums will come to your yard to find shelter and then stay for easily accessible food like apples.
To help further deter these creatures from setting up camp in the first place, make sure that any branches that you trim from your trees are picked up and disposed of promptly.
Since opossums like to make their homes in brush and firewood piles, cleanliness and organization are two simple ways to ensure the welcome sign is put away for these creatures.
You can also read our list of scents that opossums hate for some general repelling info on keeping them at bay.
Badgers Love Eating Fallen Apples Near Apple Trees
You’re not always likely to see a badger walking across your backyard, but if you live in an area where these animals are common, you might see them digging around your yard for a bite to eat.
Now, badgers do prefer meat to plants, but if they’re unable to hunt or if an injury or circumstance arises that won’t allow them to eat meat, they’re content to eat fruit and vegetables. Like the raccoon, badgers aren’t overly picky, and biting into a rotten apple won’t phase them in the least either.
In addition to eating your apples, don’t be surprised if these critters also dig around your yard in search of food that other animals may have stored away, causing additional damage to your yard and plants and potentially putting yourself at risk of injury if you’re not careful where you step.
How To Keep Badgers Away From Your Apple Trees
Since these creatures are diggers, a fence may not be the best deterrent, so here are some more effective recommendations to handle badgers:
- Keep your yard and orchard area clean.
- Add motion sensing lights.
- Check in with your local wildlife control specialist.
Rats Love Eating Apple Trees
Plants are a main source of nutrients for these creatures, and they surprisingly don’t need a large amount of food to keep them going. Your apple tree could very well be the reason you have rats in your yard!
An apple a day might be all a rat needs to fill their bellies for the day, but they aren’t unknown for sneaking around and stealing or storing food for a later day when their food sources run low.
Keeping Rats Away From Your Apples
Many of the ways that we’ve already mentioned to combat apple tree pests apply to rats as well, especially those from our mice section. Here are a few specific ways in which to keep rats away from your apple trees:
- Move your compost bin away from your apple tree.
- Clean up fallen apples.
- Put your cat to work.
- Call a professional.
In addition to these methods, there are also a few scents that rats hate. For example, spreading out peppermint or lemon scents can confuse their sense of smell causing them to stay away!
Rabbits Love Eating Apples Fallen From Your Apple Tree
We already know that our bushy-tailed friends are herbivores, and according to a study by The University of California, they confirm that fruits and veggies are a necessity in their regular diet.
The good news is that since these critters don’t have mutant climbing abilities, the apples in your tree aren’t at risk, but rabbits can still be problematic if you have apples that have fallen to the ground or if you store your apples outdoors.
Instead of diminishing and hurting your current apple harvest, rabbits will mainly make their meals off the apples that have fallen from your trees or from baskets of apples that may not have been transferred yet.
While they may be considered less of a pest because they aren’t going after the tree itself, you may still find yourself with quite the rabbit population in your yard if you’re not careful.
How To Keep Rabbits Away From Your Apples
Since rabbits will feed off the fallen apples, the simplest solution is to make sure that you keep your yard or apple orchard ground area free of fallen fruit. We know that raking up apples may not be able to make it on your daily chore list, but you’ll want to make sure that it’s a task you complete regularly.
In addition to sprucing up the yard and keeping rabbits away, while you clean up any fallen fruits, you’ll also be leaving yourself a clearer area to pick the apples from your trees yourself.
Foxes Can Damage Apple Trees And Eat Apples
You might be surprised to learn that foxes aren’t strictly meat eaters. While it’s true that foxes prefer small creatures like rabbits and even birds, they won’t turn away an apple if it’s fallen to the ground and on their path.
According to Utah State University, pests like foxes and squirrel are well-known for damaging and targeting fruit trees.
To make this critter even more interesting, there is a particular species of fox, the gray fox, which is known to climb trees. This means that if you’re in the right area where this species may thrive, it may not be too far-fetched of a concept to see one of these animals climb an apple tree to snag some apples right off the branches.
Keeping Foxes Away From Your Apple Tree
Foxes aren’t a fan of people, so your presence is usually enough to scare them away, but they can be sneaky creatures and find a way to stay out of sight if there’s a plentiful food source nearby.
In addition to proper fencing and lighting, here are some other ways to keep foxes at bay:
- Use strong scents. Because of their sensitivity to smell, adding strong scents is a great deterrent. Chili pepper and garlic are common plants and scents that foxes stay away from, and can also be made into a spray for use directly on your trees and other plants. You can read more about the smells that keep foxes away here.
- Install prickle strips. I know this option sounds painful, but these strips are flexible plastic meshes that are covered in small spikes which make it uncomfortable to walk on.
These Spike Mat Devices don’t cause harm to the animals but are effective in stopping pests from roaming while still allowing your plants and trees to grow.
If you use this method, be sure to make sure that any visitors you may have wear shoes while walking around so that you don’t step on or disturb these strips.
Putting It All Together
Whew! Talk about animal coverage!
I know we covered a lot of animals that could be eating and otherwise hurting your apple trees and yard, but here’s a quick recap of the most common apple-loving animals:
Be sure to check our list to see the best way to manage each potential pest, but know that some regular maintenance of your apple trees and yard are beneficial in repelling many pests in general.
Cleaning up fallen and rotten apples, properly trimming your tree, and adding some lighting when and where you can are sure to help you protect your trees and should help you be able to harvest more apples than you can eat on your own.
Ferretti, G., Neri, D., & Borsari, B. (2010). Issues of Food Safety: Are “Organic” Apples Better?. In Nutrition Guide for Physicians (pp. 115-124). Humana Press.
Gillingham, M. P., & Bunnell, F. L. (1989). Effects of learning on food selection and searching behaviour of deer. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 67(1), 24-32.
Merkle, J. A., Robinson, H. S., Krausman, P. R., & Alaback, P. (2013). Food availability and foraging near human developments by black bears. Journal of Mammalogy, 94(2), 378-385.
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.
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