A freeloader in the garden

May 12, 2017


Something’s been eating my strawberries. Yes, the luscious berries that we planted two springs ago and carefully nurtured so we’d have fresh fruit over our ice cream and cake or sliced to sweeten a fresh spinach salad. Since they first began blooming in May, I’ve harvested about 15 scarlet bursts of flavor that hip hop on my taste buds. Last week, I went to pick some for supper and discovered I’m not the only one that likes this spring treat.

We have flocks of birds zipping in and out of the yard, so I checked to see if beaks had pecked at the berry chunks still attached to the plant. Nope, whatever picnicked in Grandma’s garden took actual chomps from the ripest sections of the fruit, leaving hard green stems behind.

Trying to imagine what would devour my luscious treats, I remembered that at our former home, a box turtle would creep into the garden to sample tomatoes. Once in, it levered its pointed upper and weaker lower jaws to snap good-sized chunks out of the orange half of my BLTs. When I first noticed the actual bites out of my strawberries, my first thought was I had another reptile sampling the wares.

On a detective mission, I roamed through tilled rows, lifting lettuce, kale, chard, and spinach leaves in an effort to find and evict the invader. When I didn’t spot it, I inspected nearby plants and flower beds, thinking maybe it dined al fresco and then headed for a more sheltered area to digest its tasty meal.

Again, no luck. After searching fruitlessly (pun intended), I knew it was time to consult my planting partner, who is a much better sleuth than I. With decades of hunting experience, his sharp eyes zero in quickly on clues I miss.

It was the right move to involve my husband. After a short review of the rain-dampened soil, he turned to me to ask, “Do skunks like strawberries?”

“What?” I said. 

“We have skunk tracks in the garden, so that’s probably what’s eating your goodies.”

After a few moments on the internet, I confirmed my sweetheart’s suspicions. These stinky critters like berries of any kind. To confirm his findings, I remembered when our dogs got sprayed by a black and white kitty right in our back yard not so long ago. This current trespasser could be the very creature who perfumed our pooches.

Considering the super powers of this berry thief, we’ll have to strategize to make certain we don’t end up needing a hydrogen peroxide/baking soda bath. No tiptoeing through the garden in the wee hours of the morning or late at night. 

When my girls were little, they loved the book The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear. The tiny grey rodent satisfactorily solved his fruity theft problem by sharing his red treasure with the bear. I don’t think this plan will work in this case. Once again, the potential of facing eye burning, stomach-wrenching stench forces me to consider other options.

I’m not certain, how this story will end, but I don’t intend to support that freeloading, strawberry thieving skunk much longer. Stay tuned for further adventures.