If your plan for the perfect pumpkin patch for this fall is being devoured in front of your eyes, some animals have likely made their way into your garden to eat your pumpkin plants!
The smell of your plump pumpkins is attractive to an abundance of animals. Squirrels, deer, birds, rabbits, groundhogs, mice, raccoons, porcupines and even chickens love eating pumpkins. The best way to stop these animals is to build a wired garden fence around your pumpkins and enclose them.
They’ll start nibbling away at the leaves, scratch the rinds, munch on the flesh and scavenge the seeds of your pumpkins and plants without pause. A munched-on pumpkin smells as good as pumpkin pie to them!
Squirrels Snack On Your Pumpkins
Squirrels are known for eating their fair share of nuts and acorns, but that doesn’t stop them from snacking on your pumpkins.
Many things will attract squirrels to your yard, but pumpkins make the perfect snack for a squirrel to sneak on a sunny afternoon.
If you’ve noticed any holes or scratch marks on your pumpkins recently, you can thank the squirrels for that. Squirrels scratch the rinds, chew holes, and snack on the flesh and seeds of your pumpkins.
There are many perks to eating pumpkins and their seeds, but for the squirrel, eating your pumpkins is their way of fattening up before winter. Pumpkins are one of the most prominent garden veggies available for snacking towards the end of fall before the cold of winter sneaks in.
According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, there’s a story told of a farmer in Texas who stored forty pumpkins in his barn one fall, each weighing around 10 pounds and in one month’s time, two pesky squirrels hollowed out every single one of them by eating the flesh and storing the seeds.
Really, the main reason they’re snacking on your pumpkins is to store food and build fat, so by providing them with other places to collect snacks, you won’t have to worry about your pumpkins.
How to Keep Squirrels Away From Your Pumpkins
Before the squirrels start sneaking mouthfuls of your pumpkin seeds, start supplying them with other fat-building snacks.
Squirrels are foragers, so spreading out nuts and seeds somewhere far away from your pumpkin plants will keep them away. Planting oak and walnut trees around your home will also keep the squirrels at bay.
A super fun way of keeping squirrels away from your pumpkins is by hanging a squirrel feeder around your trees! This Mixxidea picnic table squirrel feeder doubles as a shelter and food source for the squirrels. You’ll probably find them hanging out there more than around the garden!
Squirrels love ground cover, so keeping wood and brush piles miles away from your pumpkins will deter squirrels since they’ll have no place to hide or retreat to.
It has also been said that dusting cayenne powder around your plants will chase the squirrels and other wildlife out of your garden.
If you’d like some more options, take a look at our full list of scents that squirrels hate!
Deer Love Pumpkins
Deer love eating pumpkins. They will eat almost every part of your pumpkin plants, from the leaves to the seeds of your pumpkins.
Pumpkins provide many nutrients to deer and serve as a healthy fall snack, so they’ll always come back for more.
Since deer are large animals, they’ll ruin your pumpkin plant in the process of picking out their perfect one. They trample over the vines, damaging the plant and slowing its production.
Once they find the perfect pumpkin out of your pumpkin patch or catch a whiff of the one on your porch, they will eat the entire pumpkin without pause.
Usually, deer can destroy entire pumpkins overnight, leaving little to no evidence. However, if they don’t finish their feast, there are a few signs of damage to look for to decide if deer are the issue.
Hoof tracks around your pumpkins or garden are the first signs of deer.
Deer then tear into these tasty treats by gnawing on them and leaving teeth marks in your pumpkins.
The exposed parts of the pumpkin will attract other wildlife to your pumpkin wonderland and eventually rot.
How to Keep Deer Away From Your Pumpkins
Deer are shy creatures, so any mix in their routine will scare them away.
If your garden is attracting deer and they’re munching on your pumpkins, try planting garlic in your garden. Garlic is a powerful deterrent for deer; they do not enjoy the smell.
While keeping away the deer, garlic will also repel many bugs and insects from your pumpkins and other garden plants! Plus, freshly grown garlic is unbeatable.
Dogs are also a deterrent for deer. Any movement in the backyard and your dog can run them off with one bark, even if your pup is just peering through the glass window of your home.
Deer dislike motion or noises. If you’re looking for an easy, timed way to keep deer away from your pumpkins, try installing the Orbit Yard Enforcer Motion-Activated Sprinkler in your backyard. This 24-hour motion-detected sprinkler will spray any pests with a stream of water that come into your yard throughout the night or while you’re away.
Eventually, deer will learn not to step a hoof near your pumpkin patch.
It, of course, doubles as a sprinkler too! So while you’re keeping those deer away, you’ll be growing a lusciously green garden!
If you’d like another option, you can even use epsom salt to keep deer away – and it’s good for your garden.
Birds Love Eating Pumpkin Seeds
Birds are usually beneficial for the garden by feeding on common bugs and insects, but that doesn’t stop them from pecking your pumpkins.
Birds love eating the pumpkin seeds out of your pumpkins and occasionally eat the flesh too.
Usually, birds will wait until parts of your pumpkins become exposed from other wildlife munching on them and when they do, they’ll swoop down and snack on all the pumpkin seeds.
However, even if no part of your pumpkin is exposed, they still find your pumpkins delicious and will peck holes in them until they reach the seeds.
A wide variety of birds love eating pumpkins, but perhaps the most troublesome bird for your pumpkin patch will be the crow.
Crow damage, or any bird damage for that matter, consists of brown and yellow markings and holes on the outside of your pumpkins.
How to Keep Birds Away From Your Pumpkins
Placing bird feeders around your home will encourage birds to snack on the seeds you provide instead of searching for their own. Bird feeders can keep your porch and pumpkin patch protected from them.
Noises are also an effective way of keeping bird beaks off your prized pumpkins. A study noted by Utah State University found that tape recordings and noise makers were successful at frightening them away.
Wind chimes are a beautiful way to use noise to deter birds from your yard.
A fun DIY to keep the birds out of your garden is painting rocks to mirror the image of a garden vegetable.
For example, painting a large, round stone to look as if it is a pumpkin will attract the birds as if it was a pumpkin. They’ll peck at the rock, find it hard and undesirable, and will not come back into your patch or garden.
You can protect other garden veggies and fruits this way too!
Rabbits Are Eating Your Pumpkins
Rabbits are the most common animals you’ll find hopping around your garden.
They’re by far the cutest ones.
While searching for the perfect spot to burrow into, they’ll stop by your pumpkins and munch off a few leaves or pieces of pumpkin for their hard work.
Unlike deer, rabbit marks are clean-cut, making it easy to identify what is eating your pumpkins.
How to Keep Rabbits Away From Your Pumpkins
Since rabbits are so common, there are an abundance of ways to keep them from eating your pumpkins.
Rabbits dislike the smell of fish and onions. Being intentional about your fertilizer choice or planting onion bulbs in the garden are ways to keep rabbits away.
Dogs love to chase rabbits. My dog would chase rabbits as a day job if she could. For this reason, rabbits tend to stay out of yards where dogs are present.
Here is your sign to get another dog—I’m taking it.
Also, after you water your garden, wrap up the hose and leave it outside. Rabbits fear snakes and the garden hose makes a pretty good clone.
Pumpkins Attract Groundhogs
Groundhogs—famous for predicting the start or delay of the planting season—can see more than just their shadows. Groundhogs are attracted to pumpkins and are probably already eating the pumpkins in your garden.
Groundhogs don’t go far, so if you’ve noticed one sinking their teeth into your pumpkins, they’re probably tunneling nearby. In fact, groundhogs don’t travel more than 200 feet away from their burrow.
Teeth marks are the easiest signs of damage to identify a groundhog eating your pumpkins.
When a groundhog gets going, they can eat up to 4 pounds of your pumpkins per day. A small foraging family of them can eat your entire garden in less than a week.
How to Keep Groundhogs Away From Pumpkins
There aren’t many ways to keep the groundhogs away; I mean the majority of their life happens underground.
According to a study by the University of New Hampshire, placing large, clean jars with water in your garden presumably projects a distorted reflection of the groundhog in the garden, scaring them away.
Placing pinwheels around your pumpkins can also be another option. Activity or motion around the plants will leave the groundhogs running for their own place.
You can also use specific scents to keep groundhogs away if you’d like to explore that option more.
Mice Prefer Eating Pumpkin Seeds
Mice love eating your pumpkin seeds. In fact, mice will dig up and eat the pumpkin seeds you just planted!
This can be a real problem.
Pumpkins are picky plants. They do not like to be transplanted. Since that’s the case, you have to sow them in the ground directly.
And that’s when the mice strike.
Getting your pumpkin patch started can be troublesome if you have mice around.
If you make it past their scavenging, mice will also chew small holes in the pumpkins themselves, hoping to reach the seeds on the inside.
How to Keep Mice Away From Your Pumpkins
Honestly, the mice around your pumpkins might just be waiting for their Cinderella moment where mice were turned into horses and pumpkins into coaches. They’re the perfect pair.
But yes, the mice do not belong in your garden eating your produce and pumpkins.
An outdoor cat can be a great deterrent for mice, and they’ll probably even catch a few of them too!
In the garden, you can plant mint to deter mice and other pumpkin pests. Mice don’t like mint, so you can even sprinkle dried mint leaves around your pumpkins to keep them away.
Many of these suggestions also work to keep mice out of your house!
Raccoons Will Eat Your Pumpkins
Raccoons will most certainly eat the pumpkins in your garden.
The diet of a raccoon is based solely on seasonal availability. As the summer wraps up, the number of readily available produce and plants decrease leaving your fall pumpkins susceptible to the raccoons.
In addition, raccoons will forage and eat more in the fall to prepare for the upcoming winter.
More than likely, you’ll find a sneaky raccoon stealing the pumpkin off your porch before you see them crawling around your pumpkin vines.
How to Keep Raccoons Away From Your Pumpkins
Raccoons plan their escape route, always. When it comes to the mess of crawling vines, raccoons tend to stay away.
Raccoons become a bigger threat when your pumpkins are growing up instead of out, leaving no room for the raccoon to get tangled in the vines.
To keep raccoons away from your pumpkins, try planting onion and garlic around your garden.
Raccoons have an insane sense of smell, so deter them from eating your pumpkins by using these other 9 Scents That Raccoons Hate.
Pumpkins Are Pleasing to Porcupines
Did you know that the quills on a porcupine’s back are an indicator of a porcupine’s mood? If they’re standing straight up, you should probably just let him keep that pumpkin.
You can get a new pumpkin for your porch.
Porcupines find pumpkins rather tasty, and their diet usually consists of fallen fruits and produce from trees and gardens.
With that in mind, porcupines find your fallen porch pumpkins rather pleasing to their palate.
Less often will you find a porcupine wandering into the garden to munch on a pumpkin.
However, if your garden or pumpkin patch is backed by a heavily wooded forest, porcupines may be eating your pumpkins straight off the vine.
How to Keep Porcupines Away From Your Pumpkins
Porcupines are shy creatures, so a busy garden is the best way to keep them away.
Clearing attractants for porcupines in this case is more effective than trying to repel them. You can keep porcupines away from your pumpkins by clearing your land of potential attractants.
Porcupines are attracted to salt, so ridding your garden of salts, such as Epsom salt to deter certain bugs, or plywood around your home can lead the porcupines to your pumpkins.
Don’t throw those salty roasted pumpkin seeds outside your home either.
Chickens Love Pumpkins
Chickens commonly pick at the seedlings of pumpkins. Honestly, they’ll pluck the seedlings of any garden veggie.
When starting your garden, it’s important to be sure chickens don’t have access to it. They’ll destroy your garden before it even gets started.
If your garden has made it past the seedling stage, the chicken threat still isn’t over. As your pumpkin plants mature, chickens will begin plucking the leaves of your plants and pecking at the pumpkins.
Chickens are attracted to the color red and even darker oranges, a close shade of red which is what brings them there to begin with.
Chickens will peck the sides of pumpkins and clean out the seeds from the inside until your pumpkins are hollow. This means your porch pumpkins aren’t safe either.
Chickens still share many benefits with your seedlings and pumpkins. They eat many pests that plague your pumpkin plants.
How to Keep Your Chickens Away From Your Pumpkins
Keeping chickens off your pumpkin plants is a priority. Pumpkin vines are delicate and chickens will walk all over them on their way to peck your perfect pumpkins.
The best way to keep chickens out of your garden and away from your pumpkins is by fencing it off. You can learn more about building some chicken fencing here if you’d like.
Chickens are extremely beneficial to your plants, so don’t remove them from your yard altogether.
Finding the perfect fence for your home and garden can keep more than just the chickens away from your pumpkins.
Long-Term Solutions To Keep Your Pumpkins Safe From Wildlife
Many of these suggestions are backed by studies and suggested for the short-term protection of your pumpkins.
There are a few things you can do to keep the wildlife away from your pumpkins long-term, but your best option is to use a combination of the two for double security.
Fencing Around Your Garden Can Secure Your Pumpkins
The easiest way to keep any animal out of your garden, whether it’s wandering wildlife or your clucking chicken, is to put a fence around your garden.
In most cases, you don’t need a large fence to keep the animals out of your garden. As much as one wire around the perimeter of your garden can keep the deer out.
Netting and other small fencing can also work to keep the ground animals out.
While effective for most pumpkin pests, rabbits and groundhogs will still tunnel under the fence to reach your garden plants. In that case, using fencing as an addition to other tips and tricks will protect your pumpkins.
Rarely, rabbits and groundhogs will enter a space with no escape route, so if they tunnel, sprinkle black pepper or cayenne powder at the base of their burrows to discourage them from tunneling into your garden.
Allow Your Vines To Grow Up
Allow your pumpkin vines to grow up a trellis to deter ground animals from feasting on them. Not only does it keep the ground animals away, but it deters many other pests from picking on your pumpkins, like the pesky squash bug.
Pumpkins love to climb, and unless your goal is to grow the biggest pumpkin, the pumpkin vines won’t collapse under the weight.
It takes time to train your pumpkin vines to crawl vertically instead of sprawling out on the ground, but they’ll catch on quicker than you can imagine.
Try this with all of your vines and watch them climb up the trellis this fall. It’ll be a beautiful sight, I promise.
Patching Things Up
Just like us, animals love to eat pumpkins. Although, they don’t get to share pumpkin treats in the delicious ways we do.
The most common animals you’ll find picking through your pumpkins are squirrels, deer, birds, rabbits, groundhogs, mice, raccoons, porcupines, and even your chickens.
Well, that seems like the whole neighborhood of rural wildlife–and it is–there aren’t many animals that will look at the pumpkin on your porch or in your patch and say “hm, not today” (actually, I don’t think they say that at all, but you get the point).
And it’s highly unlikely that your pumpkins are being picked on by a combination of these animals. As long as you practice short- and long-term solutions to keep pests away, your pumpkins will make it this fall.
Bradley, F. M. (2007). Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver: The Best and Latest Advice for Beating Pests, Diseases, and Weeds and Staying a Step Ahead of Trouble in the Garden. Rodale Books.
Harley, R. (1997). Pest-Proofing Your Garden (Vol. 15). Storey Publishing.
Kuhns, M. R., Dettenmaier, M., & Tegt, J. (2019). Identifying and Preventing Porcupine Damage to Trees.
Riotte, L. (1998). Carrots love tomatoes: secrets of companion planting for successful gardening. Storey Publishing.
Sandbeck, E. (2003). Eat More Dirt: Diverting and Instructive Tips for Growing and Tending an Organic Garden. Broadway.
Van der Merwe, L. J. (2015). Living with wildlife-ecology & conservation. Quest, 11(1), 42-44.
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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