Fighting Over Food

Reader Contribution by Cam Mather
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Guest Post by Michelle Mather

Cam has shared many
stories about the challenges that wildlife can present in terms of
gardening. We keep our main vegetable garden loosely fenced with chicken
wire. “Loosely” so that raccoons won’t attempt to climb the fence – if
it were taut it wouldn’t keep them out. Deer could jump the fence, but
luckily they don’t seem too interested in our vegetable garden at this
time of year. We always see them or see signs of their presence in the
fall when they make a point of going in and cleaning up the leftover
broccoli plants or Brussels sprout plants, etc. By then we’ve finished
with the garden and so we don’t mind them using what they can.

winter day Cam happened to walk through the vegetable garden and saw
red stains on the snow. He looked more closely and thought it might be
blood! Then he took a closer look and realized that deer had been in the
garden and had discovered a few beets that had been overlooked. The
deer had dug through an inch of snow and into the frozen ground to gnaw
on the frozen beets. Apparently they were still juicy enough to cause
the red stains on the snow!

Our strawberry patch is located behind
the house and is not fenced in. This year, just after we had picked the
last of the berries, Cam noticed that something had been chewing on the
leaves of the plants. We’d been competing with chipmunks for the actual
berries, but he was pretty sure it wasn’t chipmunks eating the leaves
of the plants. A few nights later we happened to spot a deer out back.
It was a young deer and it appeared to be grazing on the grass back
there. The next night the deer was back but this time Cam caught it in
the act of grazing on our strawberry plants! He frightened it away and
made a point of tying Morgan the Wonder Dog up in the patch the next few
nights to keep the deer away.

Every summer as corn season
approaches we have to keep a close eye on it. The local raccoons seem to
have some sort of “corn radar” and they know the precise moment that
the corn is ready to harvest.  Once again, Morgan earns his keep by
sleeping in the corn patch during corn season. If it’s a rainy night
though, we give him the night off, as I don’t think it’s fair to expect
him to sleep out in the rain. One rainy night the raccoons had a party
in our corn patch. We wouldn’t mind so much if they picked an ear of
corn and ate the whole thing before choosing another, but they only take
one or two bites from each ear before tossing it aside and choosing a
new one! A couple of raccoons can go through a whole lot of corn at that

The other morning I discovered a new threat to my plants. I
had potted some small basil plants. I decided that I’d better water
them and so I filled up my watering can and headed over to my plants. I
happened to notice that one pot was missing its basil plant!

couldn’t imagine any creature wanting to eat a basil plant – I’ve
noticed that bugs have been nibbling on the leaves of the plant but they
hadn’t taken out a whole plant before! As I got closer to the pot I
noticed a pair of eyes looking back at me from the top of the pot.

was a toad! A rather large toad had decided that my pot looked like a
comfy place to sleep so it had dug my basil plant out and wedged himself
(or herself) in!

I had admired the toad and taken a few photos I gently relocated him or
her to a cool, shady garden and repotted my basil plant. Deer,
raccoons, chipmunks and now toads! It’s hard work protecting our gardens
from the wildlife around here!

Photos by Michelle Mather.

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