Catching the fruit eater

Stephen Putman
Thu, 22 Apr 2010 11:01:32 PDT
I don't usually comment on these items as it gets me called nasty names. 
  More than 20 years ago I had a large native eastern (US) wildflower 
garden in an urban setting, but adjacent to the "world's largest in-city 
park" - Fairmount Park in Philadelphia.  Not too much trouble with 
rabbits except when I tried to establish a planting of nut bushes and 
the rabbits kept eating them down to the ground before they could be 
established.  I finally shot and ate the rabbits.

Later, I planted lots of Crocus in a "non-native" section of the garden 
(which I could observe through an upstairs window).  The next spring I 
noticed some of that bed being scuffed up.  Then the scuffs became holes 
and crocus began being spread about on the surface.  I looked out that 
second floor window one day in time to see an eastern chipmunk digging 
and eating crocus bulbs.  Taking the law into my own hands, and as I was 
pointing almost directly down at the ground, I used a .22 cal. rifle to 
dispatch the chipmunk.  In its cheek pouches there were over a dozen 
small crocus bulbs.  The garden was surrounded by a stone wall (much of 
it laid up dry), and it was a chipmunk sex camp, because there seemed to 
be an endless parade of chipmunks.  I finally wound up trapping or 
shooting more than two dozen of the little darlings.  So long as I was 
willing to do that each year both spring and fall, I had crocus.  If I 
quit for a year, the crocus would rapidly begin to disappear.

For us gardening is mostly a pastime.  For some animals the contents of 
our gardens are a convenient source of food, and life.


On 4/22/2010 1:35 PM, Adam Fikso wrote:
> Rabbits ate off nearly all the azalea buds I had (nearly 200 flowers by
> estimate).  No other animal is likely as a  possibiity in our area---nor
> birds, except, possibly a pair of cardinals.No woodchucks any more, and the
> buds were too high.  No deer close by.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Jane McGary"<>
> To: "Pacific Bulb Society"<>
> Sent: Thursday, April 22, 2010 11:20 AM
> Subject: [pbs] Catching the frit eater
>> For the past two years my bulb collection has been ravaged by an
>> animal that crops off the flowering stems of Fritillaria,
>> Ornithogalum, Calochortus, and a few other genera, resulting in a
>> loss of seed crops, not to mention extreme anger and frustration on
>> the part of the gardener. I didn't know what was doing it. I
>> suspected rabbits, which have invaded the frames and eaten the
>> foliage of Crocus; but it seemed to me that rabbits would also eat
>> the frit foliage, and this animal was ignoring nonflowering plants. I
>> knew it wasn't mice, because the stems were bitten off higher than a
>> mouse could reach when the stems extended above the netting with
>> which I was trying to protect them. It wasn't deer, because it was
>> happening when the frame lights were lowered. Gophers are rare here,
>> and there was no sign of their excavations, nor were bulbs being dug
>> up. I considered the mountain beaver (Oplodonta), a genus and indeed
>> family endemic to the Pacific Northwest and present in my woods, but
>> it's a big animal (about the size of a groundhog) that would have
>> trampled plants as well as eating them.
>> Finally, yesterday evening, I spotted it: a chipmunk. I immediately
>> baited and placed a live trap near where I had seen it exit the
>> frame, and this morning it was there in the cage. Today it's going on
>> a very long ride, and it won't have fun doing it, because I'm
>> combining the chipmunk relocation with my collie's vet appointment,
>> and Winnie the collie gets to stare at the little devil for a few miles.
>> I had begin to suspect chipmunks after noticing one biting the
>> emerging foliage off a potted Japanese maple near the house. Possibly
>> they are attracted to plant material that's unusually sweet in
>> spring, and the nectar-rich liliaceous flowers and their succulent
>> stems would qualify. Interestingly, they did not take some of the
>> California Fritillaria species (section Liliorrhiza) or species in
>> the Imperiales section (F. imperialis, F. eduardii, etc.); perhaps
>> these contain some compound that is offensive to predators. Nor have
>> they taken many tulips in the frame, though deer bite off the stems
>> of those in the garden.
>> I'm told that chipmunks are not common in urban areas, but if you're
>> seeing this kind of damage to flowering stems, watch for them. They
>> are easy to trap in squirrel-size Havahart live traps baited with
>> sunflower seeds (I stick the seeds to the trigger platform with
>> honey). Because they're a native mammal I hesitate to kill them; I
>> will have no such reservations once I move nearer the city and have
>> to protect my bulbs from the introduced eastern gray squirrel, or
>> worse yet from rats.
>> Jane McGary
>> Northwestern Oregon, USA
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