There’s nothing quite like biting into a fresh strawberry grown on your own land. These sun-loving plants make a great addition to the garden, but can attract some unwanted guests who also enjoy eating strawberries!
Some common animals that love eating strawberries include mice, deer, orioles, raccoons, voles, finches, snails and slugs, robins, squirrels, and rabbits. Some animals will go for the fruit and foliage while other burrowing critters may attack the roots of the strawberry plant.
Let’s dive into the common animals that eat strawberry plants, what the damage looks like, and how you can repel these pesky critters and get back to enjoying your strawberries!
1. Mice Love Eating Strawberries
Mice are a common pest found around the home and garden. These little rodents have adapted to live close to human civilization, so it’s no surprise that they creep into our gardens.
When it comes to eating your strawberry plants, mice aren’t picky about which part of the plant they eat. They’ll target the fruit, stems, roots, and leaves of the strawberry plant.
You might be able to catch a mouse chewing on your strawberry plant during the day but they are more active at night when no one is watching.
Signs of mouse damage to your strawberries might look like this:
- Small scrape marks on stems and fruit: We know mice are tiny, but their teeth are even tinier. They leave minuscule scrape marks to mark their presence. These are easiest to see on the stems and fruit of your strawberry plant.
- Disturbed roots: If mice aren’t making a home out of your home, they’re likely living in an underground burrow. These burrows can sometimes coincide with the roots of your strawberry plant. If you notice disturbed roots, you may be dealing with a mouse.
- Missing fruit: One strange thing that mice may do with your strawberries is bury them or cache them away for later use. If you notice immature strawberries going missing, it’s probably a mouse or a squirrel.
Mouse damage can range from mild to severe. The most danger comes from mice that target the roots of strawberry plants. This can kill the plant from below or severely stunt its growth.
How To Stop Mice From Eating Your Strawberries
Mice are more likely to damage fruit trees than strawberry plants, but it’s still a concern if you’re noticing some of the signs listed above like chew marks or disturbed roots.
These rodents are somewhat difficult to deter because they are so acrobatic. They can climb, swim, jump, you name it! But rest assured, there ARE ways to deter them.
The best way to deter mice is to make your yard as unattractive as possible to a mouse in the hopes that it’ll move on to somewhere else.
As soon as you notice mouse damage (or better yet, before!), try one of the strategies below to deter them from your strawberry plants.
- Mow the grass: Mice are prey to many animals. Keeping the grass trimmed means that mice can’t hide in the grass from predators. They’ll seek shelter somewhere else, hopefully far far away from your strawberry plants!
- Trim bushes: In the same vein as mowing the grass, trimming your bushes so that the bottoms are open will eliminate mouse hiding places.
- Use scent deterrents: scent deterrents can be used in specific areas such as near your strawberry plant. Once mice get a whiff of something funky like cayenne pepper, vinegar, or black pepper, they’ll likely scurry away.
You can read more about the scents that mice hate here.
- Eliminate food sources: We’re not saying to rip up your strawberry plants, but make sure you’re not accidentally providing mice with other means of food. Remove outdoor pet food, clean up fallen fruit, and clean up any fallen bird seed.
2. Deer Will Devour Your Strawberry Plants
Deer are plentiful and widespread in the US. They munch on many different kinds of plants, including strawberries. They can also do damage by trampling strawberry plants.
Early dawn and late dusk are the times when deer damage is likely to occur as this is when deer are most active. However, deer that are habituated to people will eat strawberry plants in broad daylight.
If you haven’t caught these hoofed pests in the act, try looking for the below signs of deer damage to identify the correct culprit:
- Torn leaves: Deer lack upper incisors which mean they do not make a clean cut when they browse leaves. If the leaves of your strawberry plant are torn and jagged, it is most likely from deer browsing.
- Missing fruit: Deer will eat strawberries in addition to the leaves. Unlike mice, deer will more than likely eat the entire strawberry instead of just nibbling.
- Trampled plants: while feasting on your strawberries and other garden plants, deer may trample some of the surrounding strawberry plants. Look for flattened plants and hoof tracks.
Depending on your strawberry plants and when they bloom, deer damage to fruits may occur for just a few months such as June and July for June-bearing strawberries. Or, in the case of day-neutral strawberries, deer damage can occur throughout the entire growing season.
How To Stop Deer From Chowing Down On Your Strawberry Plants
Deer may be cute in the spring when they have their wobbly fawns following them around. But when growing season hits and they start nibbling on your strawberries, it’s time to use some deterrent strategies.
Try a few different strategies to ensure those pesky deer stay away from your strawberry plants.
- Motion-activated sprinklers: If you’ve ever seen a deer in the wild, then you know they are quite skittish. A motion-activated sprinkler like the Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer comes with different settings that help you conserve water and spray only when deer are most active.
- Fencing: Building a deer-proof fence is the most expensive option but it’s also the most effective. According to the University of California, a 6-foot fence should be adequate to keep deer out. But a 4-foot high fence can act as a good deterrent.
- Scent deterrents: Deer have an excellent sense of smell, and you can use that to your advantage! Cayenne pepper is a scent that deer dislike and the capsaicin within will irritate a deer’s olfactory system.
You can read more about how to use cayenne pepper to repel deer here.
3. Birds Will Peck At Your Strawberry Plants
Birds can be beneficial to have around as they control the snail, slug, and insect populations. However, for strawberry plants, birds can be more of a hindrance than a help.
Strawberries are susceptible to birds because they are not protected by any hard exterior flesh like apples or pears. Instead, they are completely exposed, making them an easy target.
The birds most likely to damage strawberries include robins, cedar waxwings, and crows. Orioles and finches are known to peck at strawberry plants as well.
To identify bird damage to your strawberries, look for these signs:
- Peck marks in strawberries: The marks left by birds will be distinctive from other pests. They will be small holes that are left by the bird’s beak.
- Missing seeds: Some species of bird like the goldfinch will eat only the seeds from the strawberry, leaving the majority of the fruit intact.
How To Stop Birds From Pecking At Your Strawberries
Birds will only target the fruit of the strawberry plant. They may damage the leaves if they are hunting an insect or slug that happens to be sitting on the leaves.
Preventing birds from eating strawberries is more difficult than it seems. Normal deterrents like fencing will not work with birds. Instead, we have to get a bit more creative:
- Reflective tape: string reflective ribbon or tape from your garden fence or stakes placed near vulnerable strawberry plants. Goetor’s bird scare tape is double-sided to provide maximum effectiveness!
- Scarecrows: Scarecrows don’t always have to be in the shape of a human. You can use owl- or hawk-shaped decoys to scare those pesky strawberry-eating birds away. Dalen’s Fake Owl Scarecrow Decoy can be placed in the garden to scare away birds.
You can learn more about the proper way to use a fake owl or scarecrow here.
- Provide natural cover: A study done in the Journal of Applied Ecology found that when farms provided birds with semi-natural land cover, strawberry-eating bird damage was reduced and so was the damage done by strawberry-eating insects.
Instead of cutting down the trees in your yard, consider leaving them up to encourage insectivorous birds that will take care of the insect population!
On a side note, for decoys and scarecrows to be effective, they need to be moved around every once in a while. If they remain in the same place, birds will become habituated to its presence and will no longer be deterred.
4. Raccoons Will Sneak Into Your Garden For Strawberries
Raccoons are known for being sneaky. They prowl around at night, getting into our garbage, pet food, and bird feeders. Raccoons will also sneak into your garden for a strawberry snack!
These masked bandits do most of their damage at night when they are active. This makes it difficult to scare them off since we are sleeping when they are chowing down in our gardens.
To make sure it’s raccoons doing the damage and not some other pest, check for these signs of raccoon damage:
- Missing fruit: Missing fruit is a sign of a few different animals such as deer and mice. You’ll have to look for other signs in addition to missing fruit to determine if it is a raccoon.
- Rolled-up turf: If you’ve recently laid down turf and see it rolled up in areas around your garden, a raccoon is likely the culprit. This in addition to missing fruits would indicate a raccoon problem.
- Other signs of raccoon damage: Identifying raccoon damage to your strawberries alone is difficult. Instead, look for other signs of raccoons such as tipped-over garbage cans, spilled birdseed from birdfeeders, or missing outdoor pet food.
You may be able to identify raccoons by simply hearing them around the yard. At night, they will make a variety of noises such as barking, growling, and hissing.
How To Deter Raccoons From Your Strawberry Plants
It can be difficult to deter raccoons from your strawberry plants specifically. The best way to keep these masked bandits away from your strawberries is to make your yard as unattractive as possible to raccoons.
That being said, raccoons are lazy. If they have to work too hard to get food from your yard, they’re likely to move on to somewhere else that has food more readily available.
Keep both of these things in mind as you work to keep raccoons away from your strawberry plants.
- Eliminate food sources: While you can’t just destroy your whole garden because raccoons are nearby, you can eliminate some of their other food sources.
- Clean up spilled bird seed from feeders or use a catcher tray (Songbird Essential’s Seed Hoop is an excellent choice!)
- Keep garbage can lids secure or store them in a shed until garbage day
- Scent deterrents: Peppermint, coffee grounds, cayenne pepper, Epsom salts, predator urine, vinegar, and fragrant soaps can all help to deter raccoons. Scents must be applied often to remain effective.
- Eliminate hiding places: Use strong galvanized mesh or wooden boards to seal up the spaces under your porch and shed. These are places where raccoons will hide during the day.
The biggest thing to remember about raccoons is that they are opportunistic and they’re lazy. If you make them work to get at your strawberries, they may find somewhere else to find food.
Keeping a clean yard, securing your garbage, and using scent deterrents will protect your strawberries and keep them on your plant instead of in a raccoon’s belly!
5. Voles Will Burrow Into Strawberry Roots
Voles are common pests that can be quite destructive for how small they are! They create large tunnel systems that are easily seen when the ground isn’t blanketed in snow.
Voles will damage strawberries at any time of year because they are burrowing animals and will munch on roots when strawberries are dormant. These pesky critters can be active both day and night but are quite timid and easily frightened.
According to the University of California, there can be up to 100 voles per acre of land. Be on the lookout for these signs of vole damage:
- Damage to crown: Voles will chew on the crown of strawberry plants, which can affect the leaves and flowers above.
- Stunted growth: during the winter, voles will eat the roots of strawberry plants. This can lead to stunted growth in the spring and a limited fruit yield.
- Chew marks on fruit: Voles will feed directly on the fruit of strawberry plants. Similar to mice, look for small chew marks on the fruits.
To know if you’re dealing with a mouse or a vole, check the yard for signs of vole runways. These will look like tunnels from above and are often dotted with several emergency exit holes.
How To Stop Voles From Eating Your Strawberries
Voles may be small, but the damage they do can be large if populations are high enough. It’s best to start deterring them at the first sign.
When the snow melts in the spring, check for vole runways to confirm if they are in your yard or not, and then start taking precautions to protect your strawberries and other garden plants.
- Yard maintenance: Keep the yard mowed, trim the lower branches of bushes, and clean up any brush piles or stacks of unused materials. These can all be places where voles hide from predators.
- Use hardware cloth to create a barrier: ¼-inch or smaller hardware cloth is an effective barrier that voles will not be able to get through. Set it in the ground around your strawberry plant to protect the roots from burrowing voles. Pair this method with some of the things that voles hate!
- Frightening techniques: voles are very timid animals. To stop them from eating strawberry fruit, try setting out pinwheels or streamers to scare them away. Unfortunately, this will not protect strawberry roots.
6. Snails And Slugs Feed On Strawberry Plants
Snails and slugs are slimy pests that often invade our gardens and ornamental plants to chow down on leaves.
Damage from snails and slugs happens most often at night when these slow-moving pests are active. They may come out during the day if it’s cloudy and rainy.
The most obvious sign of snails and slugs is the presence of silver slime trails on strawberry leaves. This is a tell-tale sign that slugs and snails are to blame for any damage!
If snails and slugs are damaging your strawberry plant, it might look like:
- Ragged holes in leaves: slugs and snails use rasping mouth parts to chew on leaves. This leaves small, jagged holes in the leaves.
- Rough holes in fruit: Like the leaves, the fruit of the strawberry plant will have rough holes in them that are a trademark of snail and slug feeding.
How To Stop Snails And Slugs From Chewing Your Strawberry Plants
It can be difficult to detect these slimy pests since they are most active at night. However, as soon as you see the tell-tale slime trails, you can start taking action to deter them from your strawberries.
- Avoid overhead sprinklers: Slugs and snails thrive in wet, humid environments. Overhead sprinklers get the entire plant wet, which makes it easy for slugs and snails to climb up. Consider using a hand waterer or drip irrigation instead.
- Set out traps: A cup-sized container buried in the soil so that the lip is flush with the ground works great at catching snails and slugs. Fill the container with beer or other yeasty liquids to attract them to the container.
- Eliminate slug and snail hiding places: try to make your yard unattractive to snails and slugs. Remove unnecessary debris, pulled weeds, fallen leaves, and fallen fruit. Stack boards and wood neatly and avoid leaving buckets or unused pots in the garden.
You can read more about snail and slug hiding places here.
7. Squirrels Love Eating Your Strawberry Plants
Several different species of squirrels will invade the yard and garden. Ground squirrels and tree squirrels are the most common.
Squirrels are active during the day, but damage to strawberry plants is more likely to happen within the first half of the day, especially around mid-morning.
If you’ve seen these bushy-tailed critters hopping around your yard, check for signs of squirrel damage to your strawberry plants:
- Burrows around roots: Ground squirrels that burrow near plant roots can be particularly destructive. The act of burrowing will dry the roots out, possibly killing the plant or depriving it of vital water and nutrients.
- Missing fruit: Among many other animals on our list, squirrels will eat the fruit of strawberry plants. They prefer fruit trees such as apple, almond, avocado, and walnut, but they won’t pass up a juicy strawberry if they can get their paws on it!
- Caches of buried strawberries: If you stumble upon a shallow hole with a bunch of strawberries buried in it, the likely culprit is squirrels. They will cache food for the winter by burying it in the ground or stashing it in the holes of trees.
Squirrels can be extremely damaging to trees when they gnaw on the bark. Luckily, strawberry plants are usually not targeted by squirrels and will not suffer as much damage as other plants.
That being said, burrowing squirrels can be a serious cause for concern. Check out the tips below to keep squirrels away from your strawberry plants.
How To Keep Squirrels Away From Strawberry Plants
Management efforts are best done in spring and fall. This is when squirrels are most active. During the winter, many species hibernate. During the hot months of summer, squirrels are far less active.
Once strawberry plants begin growing, you can start deterring squirrels. If you’ve had problems in the past or have seen the critters around the yard, you don’t have to wait for damage to happen before you start implementing deterrents.
- Eliminate hiding places: Remove any brush piles or stacks of old wood. Seal up spaces under porches and sheds. Place wire mesh or a cap over chimneys. Replace damaged screens, roofing tiles, and fascia boards leading to the attic.
- Eliminate burrows: Filling in burrows with soil will not work. The burrows must be ripped up and destroyed to truly prevent squirrels from reinhabiting them. You can try using specific scents squirrels hate near their burrows to deter them!
- Encourage predators: Squirrels are prey to many animals such as snakes, birds of prey, and coyotes. Keeping dense vegetation in the yard can help predators catch squirrels unaware as they will not be able to see the predators as well.
- Fencing: A 1-inch mesh fence that is 30 inches high will deter squirrels.
Bury the fencing at least 12 inches into the soil with the last 6 inches bent outward in an ‘L’ shape. This will prevent ground squirrels from burrowing near the roots of the strawberry plant.
On a side note, keeping dense vegetation can attract other pests such as raccoons, voles, and rabbits. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons before taking this leap.
8. Rabbits Love Eating Strawberry Plants
Rabbits may be cute to see hopping around the yard with their fluffy white tails, but these little beasts can be quite destructive in the garden.
Strawberries are considered one of a rabbit’s favorite fruits to eat. They will be targeted specifically by rabbits as opposed to occasional browsing.
Be on the lookout for these signs of rabbit damage to your strawberry plants. Be especially vigilant in early spring when tender shoots are just starting to emerge.
- No fruit production: If the fruit-bearing time comes and goes with no fruit to show for it, rabbits may be to blame. They will eat the blossoms of strawberry plants, preventing them from fruiting.
- Clean-cut leaves: Unlike deer, rabbits will make clean cuts to the leaves they consume. Look for a 45-degree angled cut on leaves, flowers, and stems.
- Damaged sprinkler lines: rabbits have been known to chew on plastic lines such as irrigation lines and garden hoses. This can be an additional sign that rabbits are present.
Damaged sprinkler lines may also be the result of squirrel chewing. If your lines are damaged, check for some of the other tell-tale signs of rabbit damage to confirm if you are dealing with a rabbit or a squirrel.
How To Deter Rabbits From Strawberry Plants
Rabbits do not travel far from their burrows. If they are damaging your strawberry plant, chances are they are living somewhere in your yard or very close by.
Fencing and making your yard as unattractive as possible to rabbits are two very effective methods of deterring Peter Cottontail from strawberry plants.
- Fencing: A 1-inch mesh fence staked to 48 inches tall and buried 10 inches into the ground is adequate to deter rabbits.
- Eliminate hiding places: Modify your yard so that the potential hiding places for rabbits are reduced or eliminated. Remove brush piles and debris, trim lower branches of bushes and trees, and seal up the space under porches and sheds.
- Scent deterrents: garlic, cayenne pepper, blood meal, chives, and vinegar are all either too powerful or too offensive to a rabbit’s sense of smell.
You can read more about ways to naturally get rid of rabbits here.
That’s All For Now!
It’s enough to make anyone frustrated when critters come around and destroy all the hard work you’ve put into raising strawberry plants.
There are a few animals that are particularly interested in your strawberry plant and are the most likely to cause damage:
- Cedar Waxwing
- Snails and slugs
For the most part, modifying your yard, eliminating hiding places, using scare tactics, and using scent deterrents will be enough to keep these nuisance critters away from your strawberry plants.
If you’ve tried everything you can think of to protect your strawberry plants and can’t seem to combat these voracious strawberry-eating animals, consider reaching out to a professional through our nationwide pest control finder.
Amil-Ruiz, F., Blanco-Portales, R., Munoz-Blanco, J., & Caballero, J. L. (2011, October 07). The Strawberry Plant Defense Mechanism: A Molecular Review. Plant & Cell Physiology, 52(11), 1873-1903.
Gonthier, D. J., Sciligo, A. R., Karp, D. S., Lu, A., Garcia, K., Juarez, G., Chiba, T., Gennet, S., & Kremen, C. (2019, May 18). Bird services and disservices to strawberry farming in Californian agricultural landscapes. Journal of Applied Ecology, 56(8), 1948-2959.
Kosarski, K., & Parkhurst, J. (2022). Managing Human-Wildlife Interactions: Raccoons (Procyon lotor). In NCRE-148P (1-10). Virginia Cooperative Extension.
Massingham, R., & Hart, R. M. (2005). Deerproofing Your Yard & Garden. Storey Publishing, LLC.
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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