Just what the heck is eating your tomato plants? Since tomatoes can take anywhere from 2-3 months to grow, it’s a huge pain to walk out to your garden after weeks of hard work just to see that a big ol’ chunk of a tomato is missing.
Skunks do eat tomatoes. By nature, Skunks are opportunistic eaters, meaning that they eat what they find. While skunks may not intentionally seek out tomatoes, they will eat them if they come across the fruit, if it is close enough to the ground, and within their reach.
While skunks eat tomatoes, we don’t necessarily know that a skunk is eating YOUR tomatoes, as it could be another animal entirely. Let’s figure it out, shall we?
How To Tell If A Skunk Is Eating Your Tomatoes
Truthfully, I’ve never grown tomato plants yet. From what my mom tells me, they take around 2-3 months in total to grow here in Upstate, NY, during peak season. In other seasons, it takes longer.
Knowing that, and coupled with the fact that I had to give our family dog a tomato juice bath years ago when he got sprayed by a skunk in the woods, I can understand the frustration here with the possibility of skunks eating your tomato plants.
OK, so let’s picture this tragic scenario.
You’re nearing the end of a successful tomato growing cycle, and all of a sudden, one morning, you find that one of your beloved tomatoes has a big chunk taken right out of the side of it.
Devastated, you frantically run through all of the scenarios as to just what on Earth could’ve done this.
And then BOOM. You’ve landed on a skunk.
Essentially, you’ll know if it was a skunk that ate your tomato by looking at which tomato was eaten. If a tomato close to the plant’s base has a bite in it, while the rest remain untouched, then there’s a very good chance that a skunk is a culprit.
Skunks are opportunistic eaters of bugs, berries, insects, etc., and while it may not be their preferred food (they love meat and oil-based foods), skunks snack on the fruit of tomato if they come across it.
More than likely, you’ll just see one bite of out the tomato.
However, skunks generally prefer to stay on the ground. While they can climb over barriers quite well, they stay put on the ground. More than likely, this could be due to their notorious reputation as prey, and staying close to the ground makes them less visible as predators.
Nevertheless, since skunks stay close to the ground, likely, you’ll only see one or two tomatoes close to the base of your tomato plant with a bite out of them.
If the tomatoes closest to the ground are untouched, while the ones near the middle or top of the plant have been eaten, then you may be dealing with another animal entirely, such as a raccoon.
If the bottom tomatoes are untouched, other possible explanations for what could be eating your tomatoes other than skunks include squirrels, insects, raccoons, birds, and rabbits (they like to eat the leaves).
If you’re dealing with a skunk problem, call our nationwide network of pest and wildlife control professionals. We’ll connect you with a local exterminator or wildlife pro in your local area for free in seconds. Scheduling with our partner network helps support pestpointers.com, so thank you!
What To Do If A Skunk Is Eating Your Tomatoes
So, if you’ve got a skunk eating your tomatoes, this section is for you. If not, you can skip to the next section if it’s another animal you think is eating your tomatoes.
If a skunk is eating your tomatoes, then the first simple step you can take is to place a barrier around your tomatoes.
Many barriers you’ll find online are mesh netting barriers. While these may do a good job in deterring skunks, they have rather sharp claws and could rip through the netting quite easily.
You’ll want to go with a wired cage that a skunk can’t claw through. This is where WiredWorks Small Wire Plant Protectors can help get the job done.
Assuming your tomato plants are in a garden, you can place the WiredWorks Wire Plant Protectors around the base of your tomato plants with room to spare, and you’ll seemingly be able to keep plenty of critters out, most notably skunks.
If you’re the DIY type and want to make something custom-fit for your tomato plants, then you should grab some chicken wire as your base material. The Amagabeli Hardware Cloth 1/4 Inch Galvanized Welded Cage can help you get the job done here.
Essentially, make sure that you give your tomato plants enough room to grow, and make sure there’s enough room between the plant and the barrier you place where a skunk or other ground critter could reach a claw or two through and scrape your tomato.
One solution that you may find appealing, depending on your situation, is to use a raised garden bed. If you have many different tomato plants growing, you may be better off building a custom raised bed or purchasing a large one.
For these purposes, if you’ve got a few tomato plants growing, a good option of a raised garden bed that will keep your plants off the ground and out of the reach of skunks altogether is this Best Choice Products Raised Garden Bed Elevated Wood Planter.
This raised garden bed will keep your tomato plants well out of the reach of skunks by being 4-feet off the ground. The bed comes with a draining hole so that the plants don’t get overfilled with water, and the total size of the product is 48.5 x 24.5 x 30 inches.
If all your tomato plants will fit in that space, it’s a reliable option. You may want to consider putting bird netting over the top of the plants afterward, just for an added layer of protection.
What If It’s Another Animal Eating Your Tomatoes?
OK, so we’ve got the skunk thing figured out. Put up a barrier, preferably one that’s sturdy and not made of mesh, so that skunks will have a difficult time getting through it.
One thing you may have noticed, however, is that the top of the plants will still be exposed, as tomato plants can become quite tall.
If it’s another animal eating your tomato plants or you’re worried that birds or another animal could still eat your tomato plants, then you still have a few options.
One option is to purchase the galvanized wire discussed above and to build a custom-fitted, fully enclosed tomato cage for each of your plants. This isn’t a bad option, so long as you give your plants room to grow.
With the 1/4th inch thickness of the wire mentioned earlier, birds won’t be able to get through the barrier, and your tomato plants will be well protected from animals of all sorts (insects are a whole other ordeal.)
If you’re looking for less of a DIY project, then you could purchase the WiredWorks cage mentioned above, calculate the full-grown size of what your tomato plant will be, and place this highly rated De-bird Bird Netting over the top of your plants.
This would be a fantastic solution as well and prove full 360 animal protection of your plants.
If you’ve got a skunk problem, contact our nationwide network of exterminators and wildlife pros. We’ll connect you with a local pest professional in your area for free in seconds. Scheduling with our partner network helps support the free content Pest Pointers provides. Thank you tons!
Summing It Up!
Just to summarize all that for you, if you’re noticing that ONLY the tomatoes close to the base of your plant have a bite taken out of them, then there is a very distinct possibility that you have a skunk snacking on your tomatoes.
If the bottom tomatoes remain untouched, while ones in the middle or closer to the top have bites taken out of them, it is most likely another animal, such as a deer, squirrel, or bird, not a skunk.
You can defend your plants against skunks by putting up a wire barrier around your tomato plants. Skunks will have difficulty getting through this barrier, along with other types of critters.
You can also put your plants in a raised garden bed, which is a great solution as well.
By placing a wire barrier around your tomato plants or by putting them in a raised garden bed, other animals may still get to your tomatoes wherever the plant is exposed. You can combat this by placing some DIY chicken wire over the top of the plant or calling some highly regarded bird netting to place over the top of the plant.
Happy tomato protecting and skunk repelling!
Dragoo, J. W. (2009). Nutrition and behavior of striped skunks. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice, 12(2), 313-326.
Dustin, K., Messmer, T. A., Conover, M. R., & Dotson, L. D. (1997). Skunks.
Pellett, F. C. (1913). Food habits of the skunk. In Proceedings of the Iowa Academy of Science (Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 307-310).