Possum in the pumpkin patch

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I grow pumpkins every year, lately kabocha (Japanese pumpkins), also known as tetsukabuta. They over-winter well, are delicious, similar to acorn squash, I think.
I had a bumper crop this year due to ample composting at plant time. The vines extend well beyond the ~10 x 6 foot patch of earth and onto a large concrete patio and up trellises I built with bamboo.
I've never had a problem with animals messing with my pumpkins but suddenly have a big problem. My crop this year was about 70, and a few days ago there were about 20 (mostly of the largest, up to 3+ lb.) still on the dieing vines (I've generally tried to leave them on the vines until the vines are clearly unable to supply further nutrients/fluids to the pumpkins). Around a 6 weeks ago I noticed that one of the larger pumpkins on the concrete had a vertical split. I decided I'd cook it sooner than later, because the split suggested it would be among the first to rot otherwise. However, an animal got to it first. A big hole was carved out of it one day, maybe 1/3 of it was eaten. I speculated that it was a possum, which are not commonly seen here, but I have seen them. There are raccoons around here, too, but no more common than possums. Several days later I spotted a fairly large possum in the yard during the day, and it darted off. Not having seen a possum in my yard for some years, I figured that this confirmed my suspicion that a possum (this possum) had fed on my pumpkin.
Nothing further happened and I concluded that whatever attacked that cracked pumpkin wasn't inclined to feed on undamaged pumpkins and I wasn't too concerned. Two days ago, two smaller pumpkins on the ground in the planting patch were attacked and half eaten. I left the house for a few hours during the day and returning in late afternoon I was dismayed to find that two of the largest pumpkins had been attacked and almost half eaten! Two other smaller pumpkins were also half eaten. A couple of other pumpkins had very minor damage indicating that some creature had tried to penetrate the exterior. I quickly clipped off every remaining pumpkin that was not suspended in the air, leaving only 4. I assumed that it was a possum or maybe a possum family doing this.
However, yesterday I went outside and found 3 squirrels feeding on the remains of what I had left there of the attacked pumpkins. This made me think: Was it squirrels or were they just scavenging on what was left by another animal? One of the squirrels repeatedly looked longingly at one of the suspended pumpkins but didn't try to climb the trellis system, which is pretty flimsy, evidently too flimsy for it to attempt to climb. This makes me further suspect that the squirrels may have been the original attackers. There are a LOT of squirrels around here (Berkeley, CA). I wonder if squirrels could have eaten THAT much of the pumpkins, though. Two pounds or more of pumpkin were evidently consumed.
My concern is for next year. I don't know if these animals are smart enough to "remember" and come back for next year's harvest. Suggestions? TIA!!
Dan
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Possums are nocturnal, and squirrels are very diligent eaters. My money's on the squirrels - or it could be both.
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snipped-for-privacy@sbcglobal.net says...

Piggybacking because the earlier postings are lost to me.
I've seen squirrels so deeply inside pumpkins that you can just see the tip of a tail. The tree rats are after the seeds.

I've diligently practiced my slingshot technique on squirrels. They get to the point where they stay away and don't set foot on the property. --They have to be reeducated each year.
My guess is that you need to trap and remove, shoot, poison, or otherwise deter the possum(s).
With most critters, "If you do nothing the problem will recur."
The reason isn't necessarily that they remember what they ate so much as that they recognize food when they see it and pumpkins are food.
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On 20 Oct 2008 16:39:29 GMT, StefpheanKing
:Story too long, getting sleepyzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Oh, I'm sorry. I knew it was long, but please understand, I wrote it, edited it, reedited it, spell checked it and reedited it again. I tried hard to make it a cogent story, to tell the whole story without being long winded.
Dan
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wrote:
:I never would have thought possum would be in California, but, I did :know Berkley was full of squirrels. : :Texas Bob
One night about 2:00 AM in this same house around 12-15 years ago I came face to face with a possum in the kitchen! I looked at it, and it looked at me. We froze. I instinctively walked away, allowing the animal to react as I knew it would and retreat from the house, which it did. I took measures to seal off the entrance.
I've only seen possums a few times here. I did see several racoons early one morning at dawn almost a year ago in the middle of the street two blocks from my house.
Squirrels are extremely common here. One day this summer when I was in front of my house I saw maybe 1/2 a dozen or more in just a few minutes. They were having a convention.
Dan
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snipped-for-privacy@privacy.net wrote:

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wrote:
: snipped-for-privacy@privacy.net wrote: :
:> :>:I never would have thought possum would be in California, but, I did :>:know Berkley was full of squirrels.:>: :>:Texas Bob:> :>One night about 2:00 AM in this same house around 12-15 years ago I came :>face to face with a possum in the kitchen! I looked at it, and it looked :>at me. We froze. I instinctively walked away, allowing the animal to :>react as I knew it would and retreat from the house, which it did. I :>took measures to seal off the entrance.:> :>I've only seen possums a few times here. I did see several racoons early :>one morning at dawn almost a year ago in the middle of the street two :>blocks from my house. :> :>Squirrels are extremely common here. One day this summer when I was in :>front of my house I saw maybe 1/2 a dozen or more in just a few minutes. :>They were having a convention.:> :>Dan :> :> :What about groundhogs? They are more local. Big teeth?
I'm unaware of groundhogs in the area. Never heard of it.
Dan
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On Mon, 20 Oct 2008 19:05:13 -0700, Dan Musicant ( snipped-for-privacy@privacy.net) wrote:
:Shooting? I have no kind of gun right now. I guess a pellet gun might be :in order, at least when it's growing season next year, and/or the :slingshot. This is war! : :Dan
Also, I have to confess I have been thinking about poison, at least if it's a possum that's at the root of this. The other options seem very iffy. I'm unlikely to encounter the possum in the act. I have a bottle of ethylene glycol I've had for believe it or not since about 1963! A pint bottle. I could maybe figure out a way to poison the critter with it. Here's what I figure: Take a medium size squash, rupture the skin so that the flesh is smelled by whatever animal is doing this, and inject ethylene glycol into the interior. The animal would likely ingest it (I hear they like the sweet taste), and that would be the end of it. If this year is any indication, a squash whose rind is broken is the most likely to fall to an attack.
Dan
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( snipped-for-privacy@privacy.net) says...

You have to watch out for collateral damage with ethylene glycol. Other animals, such as dogs go for the taste... If the animals crawl away, die and get consumed, there's no telling what the poison will do to still other creatures. It's the same with any poison.
I don't know what kind of situation you're in, but trap and remove is my favoured method with critters larger than a squirrel... but then I have a couple of havahart traps and no compunction about surreptitiously removing an animal from its territory and donating it to the parks system some distance away ...across the river ...in the relative wild at the opposite end of an off-leash park.
On the few occasions when I couldn't remove them, I killed them in the traps. Those few that wouldn't go in the traps, I've stalked, speared and bludgeoned.
If I were you, I'd steal a march on next season and start now if at all possible by making a neighbourhood project of removing and/or critter- proofing every possible winter shelter and food source.
If you can force them to range elsewhere, you solve your problem before pumpkin season. Diligence, consistency and developing an instinct for where they shelter usually turns the trick.
Gotta run.
Good luck.
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On Oct 20, 7:24pm, Dan Musicant ( snipped-for-privacy@privacy.net) wrote:

Before trying something like this, why not go for a less chemical- filled solution: - borrow a little yappy dog to run around your yard for a few days. - put mousetraps around the pumpkins. They won't be big enough to trap a squirrel or opposum, but they will startle them. - put motion detection lights out - put up a scarecrow with tinsel streamers - borrow a great big dog to pee around your field - program a light to shine into the field several times in the middle of the night.
Susan B.
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wrote:
:On Oct 20, 7:24pm, Dan Musicant ( snipped-for-privacy@privacy.net) wrote:
:> wrote::> :> :Shooting? I have no kind of gun right now. I guess a pellet gun might be :> :in order, at least when it's growing season next year, and/or the :> :slingshot. This is war! :> : :> :Dan:> :> Also, I have to confess I have been thinking about poison, at least if :> it's a possum that's at the root of this. The other options seem very :> iffy. I'm unlikely to encounter the possum in the act. I have a bottle :> of ethylene glycol I've had for believe it or not since about 1963! A :> pint bottle. I could maybe figure out a way to poison the critter with :> it. Here's what I figure: Take a medium size squash, rupture the skin so :> that the flesh is smelled by whatever animal is doing this, and inject :> ethylene glycol into the interior. The animal would likely ingest it (I :> hear they like the sweet taste), and that would be the end of it. If :> this year is any indication, a squash whose rind is broken is the most :> likely to fall to an attack.:> :> Dan: :Before trying something like this, why not go for a less chemical- :filled solution: :- borrow a little yappy dog to run around your yard for a few days. :- put mousetraps around the pumpkins. They won't be big enough to trap :a squirrel or opposum, but they will startle them. :- put motion detection lights out :- put up a scarecrow with tinsel streamers :- borrow a great big dog to pee around your field :- program a light to shine into the field several times in the middle :of the night. : :Susan B.
I really like the creative attitude here. I don't think I can borrow a dog, but I like the idea of the mouse traps. Also, the tinsel scarecrows. Those are cheap and easy and might be rather effective. I'm a little concerned that a mouse trap will snag one of the beasts, but maybe that isn't really a problem. Thanks!
Dan
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snipped-for-privacy@privacy.net said:

Pumpkin eaters I have known:
Squirrels (especially to go after the seeds in the fall): small gnaw marks
Groundhogs (will eat them at any stage): large gnaw marks
Mice (rarely, and without much damage): tiny, tiny gnaw marks
Deer will go after pumpkins, but are likely to break them apart with their hooves as they are mainly after the seeds and soft pulp.
I'd probably finger the squirrels for this one, especially considering the day-time damage.
You may be at the peak of a population cycle. Live trapping squirrels isn't too hard.
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On Tue, 21 Oct 2008 06:31:22 -0400, Pat Kiewicz
: snipped-for-privacy@privacy.net said: : :>However, yesterday I went outside and found 3 squirrels feeding on the :>remains of what I had left there of the attacked pumpkins. This made me :>think: Was it squirrels or were they just scavenging on what was left by :>another animal? One of the squirrels repeatedly looked longingly at one :>of the suspended pumpkins but didn't try to climb the trellis system, :>which is pretty flimsy, evidently too flimsy for it to attempt to climb. :>This makes me further suspect that the squirrels may have been the :>original attackers. There are a LOT of squirrels around here (Berkeley, :>CA). I wonder if squirrels could have eaten THAT much of the :pumpkins, :>though. Two pounds or more of pumpkin were evidently consumed.:> :>My concern is for next year. I don't know if these animals are smart :>enough to "remember" and come back for next year's harvest. : :Pumpkin eaters I have known: : :Squirrels (especially to go after the seeds in the fall): small gnaw marks : :Groundhogs (will eat them at any stage): large gnaw marks : :Mice (rarely, and without much damage): tiny, tiny gnaw marks : :Deer will go after pumpkins, but are likely to break them apart with :their hooves as they are mainly after the seeds and soft pulp. : :I'd probably finger the squirrels for this one, especially considering :the day-time damage. : :You may be at the peak of a population cycle. Live trapping squirrels :isn't too hard.
Thanks, Pat!
OK, so your take is that the brazen eating of maybe a third of two 2-lb kabochas in mid-day (it was probably between noon and 3 PM) suggests squirrels rather than opposum! There were also one or two small ones attacked at the same time. It's hard to believe that one possum would do all that. Do they go in packs or are they always solitary?
I guess I'm going to have to try squirrel repellent strategies. Possibilities seem to be:
Live Trapping (I'd need traps and a decision what to do with them) Tinsel scarecrows mouse traps (to scare them away) sling shot
There are a LOT of squirrels around here!
I even thought of throwing a wire cube (with one side open) over each squash. That would require a lot of handiwork.
Dan
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Possums are definitely nocturnal and (other than mothers with babies) they are pretty much solitary.
On the other hand, I've seen as many as two dozen squirrels in my yard at one time (not the current house, thankfully!). This was the end of a population boom; there was an epidemic of what looked like mange and the population crashed rather quickly. Mangey squirrels: not a pretty sight.

Hot pepper spray as a repellent might help.

Circles are easier. 8^)

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Dan Musicant wrote:

The proper choice of cat will do the job just fine. There used to be a semi-feral black cat that hung around my parents' house that loved squirrel. If we'd been away for a while we'd often find a half a dozen squirrel tails lined up in a neat row on the front porch.
The trouble is finding the right cat--most can't figure out how to catch squirrels and the ones who can usually get beat up enough the first time that they decide that squirrels aren't worth the effort.
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J. Clarke wrote:

full sized seagull, quite a step up from finches and starlings.
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Boden wrote:

Geez, that's a tough cat.
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wrote:
:Dan Musicant wrote: :> On Tue, 21 Oct 2008 06:31:22 -0400, Pat Kiewicz
:>>> However, yesterday I went outside and found 3 squirrels feeding on :>>> the remains of what I had left there of the attacked pumpkins. :>>> This :>>> made me think: Was it squirrels or were they just scavenging on :>>> what was left by another animal? One of the squirrels repeatedly :>>> looked longingly at one of the suspended pumpkins but didn't try :>>> to :>>> climb the trellis system, which is pretty flimsy, evidently too :>>> flimsy for it to attempt to climb. This makes me further suspect :>>> that the squirrels may have been the original attackers. There are :>>> a LOT of squirrels around here (Berkeley, CA). I wonder if :>>> squirrels could have eaten THAT much of the :>> pumpkins, :>>> though. Two pounds or more of pumpkin were evidently consumed.:>>> :>>> My concern is for next year. I don't know if these animals are :>>> smart :>>> enough to "remember" and come back for next year's harvest.:>> :>> Pumpkin eaters I have known::>> :>> Squirrels (especially to go after the seeds in the fall): small :>> gnaw :>> marks:>> :>> Groundhogs (will eat them at any stage): large gnaw marks:>> :>> Mice (rarely, and without much damage): tiny, tiny gnaw marks:>> :>> Deer will go after pumpkins, but are likely to break them apart :>> with :>> their hooves as they are mainly after the seeds and soft pulp.:>> :>> I'd probably finger the squirrels for this one, especially :>> considering the day-time damage.:>> :>> You may be at the peak of a population cycle. Live trapping :>> squirrels isn't too hard.:> :> Thanks, Pat!:> :> OK, so your take is that the brazen eating of maybe a third of two :> 2-lb kabochas in mid-day (it was probably between noon and 3 PM) :> suggests squirrels rather than opposum! There were also one or two :> small ones attacked at the same time. It's hard to believe that one :> possum would do all that. Do they go in packs or are they always :> solitary?:> :> I guess I'm going to have to try squirrel repellent strategies. :> Possibilities seem to be::> :> Live Trapping (I'd need traps and a decision what to do with them) :> Tinsel scarecrows :> mouse traps (to scare them away) :> sling shot:> :> There are a LOT of squirrels around here!:> :> I even thought of throwing a wire cube (with one side open) over :> each :> squash. That would require a lot of handiwork.: :The proper choice of cat will do the job just fine. There used to be :a semi-feral black cat that hung around my parents' house that loved :squirrel. If we'd been away for a while we'd often find a half a :dozen squirrel tails lined up in a neat row on the front porch.
That is awesome! Davey Crockett the semi-feral house-cat! I do love cats. : :The trouble is finding the right cat--most can't figure out how to :catch squirrels and the ones who can usually get beat up enough the :first time that they decide that squirrels aren't worth the effort.
Training a cat would be darn near impossible, I guess.
Dan
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Dan Musicant wrote:

First you'd have to be able to catch a squirrel with your teeth :-)
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Yes, but I had a cat once who learned about rabbits up close and personal, when a daughter kept pet rabbits in the house and yard. The cat learned that rabbits are 1) awful (one was in love with her and kept jumping her with passion), and 2) easy to beat up (though she never harmed a pet rabbit). After a while the cat started showing up with battered dead wild rabbits she had caught, and it was easier to keep a garden after that.
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