Whether you’re growing a pumpkin patch or just want to keep your jack-o-lantern looking “fresh” for a while, there are plenty of animals that want to eat your hard work.
But which animals do you need to be on the watch for, and how can you limit the damage they might cause?
What Animals Eat Pumpkins?
Here are some of the more common animals that eat pumpkins. I mention some methods for keeping them away in this section, but go deeper into each later in the article as some of these methods work on multiple species.
Squirrels are the most notorious pumpkin eater in my garden. They are relentless when it comes to scratching through the rind and getting into the middle for the seeds.
They’ll take the seeds and leave a mess behind, which is fun for me as the gardener to clean up. Plus, if I don’t see it right away, the smells of the fresh pumpkin can attract other wild animals and other pests to the area.
Some of the best ways to keep squirrels away from your pumpkins are:
- Cayenne pepper spray
- Deer netting
Deer love eating pumpkins.
You’ll know if you have a deer problem on your hands if most of the pumpkin is gone. While squirrels and birds will leave small traces of their destruction behind, because deer are large animals, they will likely flatten the vines and leaves while trying to get to the pumpkins.
You can check out this post on deer eating pumpkins and prevention there as well.
Some of the best ways to keep deer away from your pumpkins are:
- 7-8 foot tall fence
- Irish Spring soap
- Deer netting
- Motion-activated sprinkler
Birds are another animal that loves eating pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are often included in bird feed, so this is a definite culprit to keep your eye out for.
Some of the best ways to keep birds away from your pumpkins are:
- Bird netting/deer netting
- Row covers
Chipmunks love sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds alike. It’s no surprise that they’d love to get their hands on a small pumpkin to feast on!
Groundhogs are also known to munch on pumpkins, and they can do a lot of damage in a short amount of time. While they usually are looking for grubs and bugs, they’ll eat quite a few plants including corn and pumpkins.
According to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, a fence at least 3 feet high is one of the better options for woodchucks.
Rabbits are well known for their love of greens, but they’ll also enjoy a few slices of pumpkin every now and then. While pumpkins are not a necessary part of a rabbit’s diet, they can be a healthy treat that provides some extra nutrients.
Mice & Voles
Mice and voles are notorious garden destruction experts. While too small to eat a pumpkin whole, they will use their sharp teeth and claws to create holes in the pumpkin and get to the inside and seeds.
The fruit left behind is then fair game for other insects and animals in search of a snack.
Chickens & Other Barn Animals
While not usually running around as wild animals, if you leave the chickens unattended near your pumpkin patch you are going to be a little upset with them.
Chickens can peck holes into the side of a whole pumpkin and eat the seeds and flesh.
Alternatively, if you have leftover pumpkins during the fall season, you can feed pieces of pumpkin to your chickens.
Chickens aren’t the only farm animal interested in feeding on your leftover pumpkins:
And don’t forget your pets too! Pumpkin is known to help calm an upset stomach for dogs as well.
How to Keep Animals From Eating Your Pumpkins
A lot of animals are drawn to fresh pumpkins, but others are more interested in the pumpkin seeds. No matter which animals you’re trying to keep out, most of them can be kept at bay with the following methods.
1. Motion-Activated Sprinkler
A lot of animals, especially deer and squirrels are known to be skittish, so hearing loud noises and seeing a lot of movement can scare them away. A motion-activated sprinkler can absolutely do the trick.
I tested it out and it is quite powerful! Here is the motion-activated sprinkler in action in my garden:
Make sure you set up a trail cam to watch all the animals run as fast as they can away from your garden 🙂
A motion activated sprinkler works wonders for keeping animals (and people!) out of your yard. It sprays intermittently as it detects continuous motion so animals won't get used to the timing of it.
One of the best ways to protect your plants is to put up a fence around them. This will keep the animals out and allow the plants to grow without being eaten.
Deer can easily jump short fences, so if you’re going to go this route, you’ll want to put up a fence that is at least 7-8 feet tall.
A wireless rabbit fence can also help keep out animals like rabbits, raccoons, and more.
3. Bird or Deer Netting
While it’s called deer netting, it works well on rabbits, squirrels, and birds as well.
If the netting is set up the right way, it can keep animals out. But if you just set it up the same way you would a fence, they can easily jump it. It really should be placed overtop the garden, instead of as a fence.
Garden netting helps keep animals from ravaging your garden:
- And more
4. Repellent Sprays
This stuff is pretty gross, and no wonder rotten eggs work to keep animals out. The main ingredient in this popular spray is a whole egg, followed by garlic and cloves. Gross, but those pungent smells really do help repel animals.
5. Companion Planting
Companion planting is a technique that involves growing specific plants together around the garden in order to support one another and boost yields.
When used with pumpkins, this technique can help to improve pollination, deter pests, retain moisture in the soil, and reduce competition for nutrients.
Some of the best companion plants for pumpkin include legumes like soybeans and peas, floral plants like sunflowers and marigolds, and herbs like chives and mint. By understanding these natural relationships, any gardener can have a bountiful harvest of healthy pumpkins year after year.
Some pest-resistant plants include:
- Alliums like Garlic and onions
- Herbs like sage, rosemary, and dill
Many animals are not fans of strong smells, and that’s exactly what garlic offers. Fend Off Sticks have a strong garlic odor which is great as pest repellents, making it a great option for keeping animals away.
6. Nylon Stockings with Soap
Got some extra Irish Spring soap laying around? Add it inside of a nylon stocking and hang it from a nearby tree branch. This scent is quite good at keeping animals (especially deer) out of the area.
7. Plastic Owl or Scarecrow
Placing a fake predator nearby can help keep animals from ravaging your pumpkin patch. While this alone isn’t going to stop them from eating an entire pumpkin, it will help discourage animals along with red cat eyes or strong odors.
Fake owls are great for keeping many animals out of the garden, including squirrels, deer, birds, and more.
8. Hot Pepper Spray
Similar to the repellent above, hot pepper sprays are great for keeping them out of your pumpkin plants. Spraying my pumpkins with cayenne pepper spray is one of the more effective methods I’ve found.
9. Get Rid of the Bird Bath or Bird Feeder
If you have a birdbath in your backyard or garden, not only is it attracting birds, but also other animals can use it as a water source. Once they’re nearby, they’ll realize there is some free food nearby. Take away the water, and you can help ease some of the damage.
Animals Love to Eat Pumpkins
Pumpkins are one of the backyard favorites for many wildlife animals. Squirrels, deer, and birds are some of the more common culprits of pumpkin damage.
The moral of the story here is to not leave leftover pumpkins from Halloween or the garden attended for long!