Animal behavior mystery

Hi all,

I have a young orchard in Ohio, completely surrounded by 8ft chain link fence and some of my apple trees are starting to bear fruit. They are about 3-4" at base and about 8ft tall, each starting out with about 30 apples or so. Every time I go out there, the number of apples keeps diminishing gradually by a few a day on every tree. None of the apples are ripe yet, but close to full size. Some of the trees are completely stripped and I can’t figure out the culprit. Which critter is doing this?

Scene of the crime:

  • There are no cores, half eaten, pecked apples hanging or on the ground, and I looked carefully
  • there is no visible tree damage, no chewed foliage, no broken branches, no claw marks
  • some of the eaten apples were pretty high up - 7 ft or so
  • my vegetable garden inside orchard is unharmed despite no additional protection - whoever is doing it doesn’t like tomatoes, cukes or peppers

The suspects:

  • deer - I suppose its possible they can hop the 8ft fence, but doubt they would eat a few apples at a time with no damage
  • birds - most likely culprit, but would expect to see pecked and partially eaten apples on ground. whoever is doing this is taking them back home
  • racoons - maybe, but would expect more tree damage and more aggressive eating, not a few a day
  • squirrels - do they even eat apples?

Any ideas? grateful for any advice. I already accepted that I won’t get much of a crop this year, but want to figure this out so I can get a jump on them next year.

Thanks

1 Like

A deer fence needs to be 14’ high with a barb wire strand 6" above that.

There are plenty of other apple-eating critters that can scale that 8’ fence. Some folks put electric wire about a foot above the ground to discourage them from starting and then again 3" above the top to discourage them from climbing over.

Many other folks from your region will likely chime in with excellent pointers.

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Squirrels eat everything.

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@bigiggye

Think its time for a trail camera

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Second vote for trail cam.

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I agree that the trail cam is a good idea.

If I had to put money on one of the options, I’d vote raccoon. They can travel in a group, are smart and agile, and appear to transport food.

My experience with squirrels, is that they are messy. More likely to take a bite or two, leave it, and move on to the next one.

Do you see evidence of deer browse on the leaves? In my experience they are more interested in the leaves, than in unripe, and often even ripe, fruit.

They will also leave tell tale deposits behind.

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Placing a bet on Possums.

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My guess is a raccoon or a few raccoons. Great suggestion is the trail cam.

I had that happen to my apple trees one year. In have some trees closer to the road and some closer the forested area the deer come out of. That year the apples were disappearing from the trees closer to the road. One tree at a time. Even though they were not ripe the apples were very red, as if they were ripe.Normally animals will not keep picking fruit that is not ripe. Or of they do and then take a bite out of the unripe fruit they leave it where they took a bite out of it. These apples were just here one day and then all gone the next day. So I bought some trail cams for the next years fruit season.
The following year I had no issues with my apples disappearing from my apple trees. I had the trail cams up. An apple here or there but not whole trees stripped of apples.

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Didn’t even know that trail cams are a thing until today. And only 40 bucks on amazon. Thanks for the suggestion.

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Just a couple of suggestions -make sure you read the instructions completely that come with the trail cam. Specifically the info about what size and type of sims card it uses and what type of batteries it suggests. If you put the wrong sims card in the camera or the wrong size limit it will not take photos. The batteries may wear out fast if you use the wrong batteries, alkaline vs lithium, etc. They can take 8 and up to 12 batteries at one time. DO NOT USA Rayovac batteries. I have had several manufacturers state in their literature or warranty info stating that. Their batteries leak. MagLite states that on their warranty form when you fill it out for repair.

@bigiggye

Your welcome my cameras picked up way more than i wanted to know. There were people who showed up after i left my home almost immediately. Many of those peoples motives and agendas are still in question. People who come by used to always be from this area but those people were not from my small community. Lots of dogs came in and out, wildlife etc… Captured friends dropping in driving semis, farm equipment and even bulldozers at times.

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SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module. SIM cards go into cellphones. Although SIM cards are basically storage devices, so far as I know today, Android phones no longer use the storage they present for anything user-related, data-related, or app-related. Instead SIM cards are required to store the preferred provider info so your phone hooks up with the correct cellular service wherever it is available. Also, SIM cards uniquely identify your phone to all the networks so that it rings when and only when someone is trying to reach you at your telephone number.

Some cellphones also accept Secure Digital (SD) cards as extendible, removable storage — hence the confusion. Digital cameras (including trail cameras) nowadays typically accept SD cards as extendible, removable storage, too. Compact flash (CF) cards and Olympus’ xD cards are things of the past. SD cards (currently) come in two form factors (physical size: standard and micro), various capacities (currently 32GB to 256GB), and various speeds (speed class C-rating or ultra-high speed class U-rating among others). Retailers often offer over two dozen different facings of SD cards in various brands, form factors, capacities, and speeds and even then don’t provide comprehensive coverage. While shopping for SD cards, you really do have to haul out your trail-camera owners’ manual and follow its recommendation as closely as you can because, as @MikeC says:

It’s quite a study that the camera industry expects the buying public to undertake. For speed ratings in particular you may skim the info at:

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Racoons. We have a big fence too and they got through it or over it. I put out a hand trap, caught a few and disposed of them. No repeat behavior.

Crows are a much bigger problem for us.

I’m not sure if you know about this, but nothing makes crows disappear faster than playing a short track of owls screeching. This does not need to be played at a loud volume, using your cell phone to play the screeching will immediately scatter any crows from your trees.

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Opossums. I have had one opossum strip an apple tree in just a couple of nights, although I have had a small one just take bites out of almost half the apples on a tree.
They either get under your fence or have taken up residence inside it.
Wrap the trunks with bird netting. I use live traps and relocate them.

We’ve seen murders of crows harassing great horned owls around our house.

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The dang crows like to tease my dogs. They’ll sit in a neighbor’s tree while the dogs go crazy. I’m not sure why my dogs do not like crows, but Shadow will stare at them forever until they fly off, then she barks at them as they fly over the house.

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I totally agree that a trail cam is a must. A friend of mine was losing apples at an alarming rate. I put a couple of trail cameras up. The next day I had hundreds of pictures of porcupines. We eventually live trapped two families totaling 11 porcupines. Lots of little ones along with a few big ones.

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Apple trees close to the road fall prey to the human-type thieves…
They probably saw the cams the next year and stayed away.

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Yup, I have Blink cameras all around mostly to identify varmints but also at my front door to catch porch pirates. It’s not an issue now where I am, but it’s nice to know I have footage if I ever need it. Any motion and it pings your phone. You can adjust the detected range and the sensitivity which is great. They also have two-way audio which has come in handy (to my 10 year old granddaughter - “Hey!! How come you are outside so late?!? Get to bed!!” surprised look toward the camera hahaha). Lithium batteries have to be used but they last a long time (I’ve gotten a year or more on my lesser-used cams). The only downside is that the cams have to be within range of the module (plugged into an electrical outlet that is within range of your WiFi) as they work on WiFi. It’s a pretty good range, but they won’t work out at the back of my field where the deer come in. I use solar-powered motion detector lights in those areas, also Amazon.

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