What Animal Is Eating Your Pumpkins at Night? & How to Stop Them

Somehow it feels personal when the pumpkin you have been watching grow over several months is stolen or half-eaten moments before you were about to harvest it from the vine. Words cannot describe the frustration and disappointment. How can you prevent this from happening again? Who did this? Or maybe the better question is what is eating my pumpkins at night?

The list of suspects in the case of the eaten pumpkin ranges from large animals like deer to ground dwelling animals like rabbits, squirrels and woodchucks. And don’t forget about the smaller pests like mice, rats and moles. With so many pests on the list, how can you tell which one did the crime on your pumpkin patch? Evidence is your friend, and we’ll help you identify the likely suspect in more detail below.

What is Eating My Pumpkin at Night

So take a deep breath, and meditate on those frustrations, because we have a case to solve – the Mystery of Who Is Eating Your Pumpkins At Night.

What Animals Eat Raw Pumpkins from the Garden?

You’d think with their thick skin and gritty exterior, most animals would overlook the humble pumpkins growing in your vegetable patch. Especially given the vines and leaves are spiny, and can agitate some animals as they step or chew on them.

However, these little inconveniences are no problem for some animals that we have on our list of suspects.

So, let’s try and narrow down this list by looking at the clues left behind at the scene of the crime.

Do DEER Eat Raw Pumpkins and Pumpkin Plants?

do deer eat pumpkin plants

Right at the top of the suspects list in the case of your eaten pumpkins is a renown garden pest, the deer.

Generally speaking, deer tend to steer clear of any plants and food that have prickles or spines, such as cucumbers. However, when it comes to pumpkins and the pumpkin vines, they provide an exception.

During the warmer months of the year, deer will happily snack on the newer parts of the vines, like the tips where there is new growth. This makes sense, because there tends to be fewer or finer spines on the new leaves and stems.

As the months become colder and leaves become scarce, deer will then turn their attention to the ripe fruit, your precious pumpkins.

You’ll know when deer have raided your pumpkin patch because they will break open the pumpkins and munch on the soft tender insides. They have no interest in the tough skins of the pumpkin and will leave them for you – how thoughtful of them?

How to Prevent Deer from Eating Your Pumpkins?

If you think deer are the cause of pumpkin woes, there are a few things you can do to deter deer from frequenting your pumpkin patch.

There are many commercial products available on Amazon that will help to keep deer away from your garden. Such as deer repellent sprays or granules you can use to form a perimeter around your garden.

Those that want a more organic solution, you can try spreading human hair clippings around your garden. As the deer smells the human hair, they are tricked into thinking there are humans around, eventually persuading them to move on to feed in safer pastures.

Alternatively, you can try hanging bars of soap around your garden. Similar to the human hair concept, the deer associate the smell of soap with humans, giving them the impression that danger is around them and that they should avoid the area.

That being said, the battle to keep deer out of home gardens is real. Unless you want to erect an eight-foot fence around your garden, if a deer wants to get into your garden they will generally find a way.

Do SQUIRRELS and CHIPMUNKS Eat Pumpkins and Pumpkin Plants?

do squirrels eat pumpkin plants

Squirrels (and chipmunks for that matter) are clever little creatures that can prove to be a persistent nuisance in home gardens. Especially if you have a vegetable garden or orchard of beautiful fruit trees.

What makes them such a nuisance is their agility and small size. They can climb just about anything, and jump large distances between structures. So keeping them out of areas is near impossible, unless it is completely enclosed (like a greenhouse or cage).

But, back to the matter at hand – will they eat your pumpkins? That is a resounding YES. Squirrels and chipmunks are among the prime suspects in the case of your eaten pumpkins.

They particularly love the flesh of the sweet mature pumpkins, as well as the pumpkin seeds. Getting through the tough skin is not a problem for them with their sharp teeth. Plus, their size is useful for hiding out of sight amongst the pumpkin vines and leaves.

How to Prevent Squirrels and Chipmunks from Eating Your Pumpkins?

So how do you protect your pumpkins if you cannot keep the squirrels and chipmunks away from your pumpkin patch?

The best way to deter these little creatures from playing lunch with your pumpkins is to take advantage of their sensitive smell.

Squirrels and chipmunks are as sensitive to smells as deer, so spraying unpleasant smells on and around your pumpkins should keep them at bay. You can use spices from your kitchen cupboard, like hot cayenne pepper or chili powder. Or you can even try crushing up fresh garlic and pepper seeds into water and spraying it on your pumpkins.

Another alternative method of scaring off squirrels and chipmunks is to install owl statues high above your pumpkin patch. Owls are natural predators of these furry little creatures, so they will think twice before raiding your vegetables. The only problem is, you will have to move the statue every few weeks, otherwise they become wise to the fact that the owl is not a threat.

Do RABBITS Eat Pumpkins and Pumpkin Plants?

credit: Unsplash

Not only do you have to be aware of airborne attacks from squirrels and chipmunks, you also need to be careful of ground dwelling pests, like rabbits.

Rabbits are possibly one of the more destructive pests around. Not only because they can breed at a fast pace and attack your garden en masse. Additionally, they also build vast sets of tunnels underground, which can actually make your garden a hazard.

That all said, when it comes to your pumpkins, rabbits are probably the least of your worries. They may chew a bit on the leaves and new growth on the pumpkin vines. However, they don’t have much of a taste for the pumpkin fruits themselves.

They’d much prefer to munch on some leafy greens and other vegetables.

How to Keep Rabbits Away From Your Pumpkins?

Nonetheless, if you want to keep rabbits away from your pumpkins, or other leafy vegetables for that matter, there are a few preventative measures you can take.

Due to a rabbit’s size and inability to climb, fencing is probably one of the easiest forms of protection for your garden. Check out this helpful video by The Rusted Garden on how to fence off your raised vegetable gardens.

Be aware, rabbits are great at digging, so if you have a vegetable patch in the ground (as opposed to raised garden beds), you will need to make sure your fence line goes at least one foot deep into the soil.

Do MOLES and WOODCHUCKS eat Pumpkins and Pumpkin Plants?

do woodchucks eat pumpkin plants

Another few suspects in the case of the eaten pumpkins live out of sight and are very hard to catch in the act. Moles and Woodchucks live underground and only come up for feeds under the cover of darkness.

They are particularly tenacious because they can dig their way to your pumpkin patch, easily by-passing any fences or protective measures you have put in place. Not only that, woodchucks have teeth that are sharp enough to bite through wire fencing!

Unfortunately for you, pumpkins are high on a moles’ and woodchucks’ list of favorite foods. They will eat any part of the plant, including leaves, stems, and flowers. They especially like the pumpkin fruits. They will devour them while they are still immature, almost ripe and ripe.

How to Prevent MOLES and WOODCHUCKS from Eating your Pumpkins

Groundhogs and moles are tricky creatures to keep away. They are terrific burrowers, which means fences will not defend against these troublesome creatures.

They are also quite strong climbers, so keeping things out of their reach will also be difficult, since they’ll just drag them down and eat them at their leisure.

Like the other garden pests, smell is your greatest defense. Try sprinkling Epsom salts at the entrance of their burrows to prevent them from using it as a thoroughfare. Some other home gardeners say castor oil has worked for them too.

In a similar vein to deterring deer and squirrels, try spreading clippings of human hair around your plants to discourage them from approaching your crops. Again, the smell of human hair will trick them into thinking a threat is around, and they should retreat to safer grounds.

Other Methods of Keeping Pests Away from Your Pumpkins

Pumpkins are hard to protect because they are so large, and they generally grow on the ground (unless you have a great garden set up with a vegetable cage – we are so jealous!).

As you may have picked up throughout this article, some of the best methods of deterring pests from eating your pumpkins so you can enjoy a winter’s feast is to spray them with unpleasant smells. Here are a few ideas of aromas you can use on your pumpkins.

ways to keep pests away from pumpkins

Chili (Spicy) Mixtures

We touched on this method in the squirrels section – and personally love using this method in our own garden to deter pests. Regularly spraying a mixture that contains a spicy powder is a great defense against pests. Not only for your pumpkins, but for other vegetables, fruits and leafy greens.

You can use any spicy product like cayenne peppers, jalapeños, hot pepper, fresh birds eye chili’s or even hot sauce. Just make sure to give your home grown produce a good wash before consuming, otherwise you may be in for a heated surprise!

Oh – and also don’t rub your eyes after spraying the mixture! Trust us – that is not a fun experience.

credit: tenor

Petroleum Jelly

Okay, this one isn’t necessarily about the smell so much, as it is the feel of the fruit and vegetables to the animals. Smearing petroleum jelly on your pumpkins helps to deter any animals that touch it. The stickiness will immediately repulse them, leaving you to enjoy your jelly smeared pumpkins! Just kidding, it’s easy to wash off.

We also suspect that the jelly masks the smell of the pumpkins, so the animals aren’t attracted to the ripening fruit.


In a similar way that the spicy scents work, vinegar can be used as a deterrent because it is such a strong and polarizing aroma.

The strong acidic smell will keep most pests at bay, allowing your pumpkins to safely mature without threat.

Simply dilute your vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with water and spray it on your pumpkins. Make sure to do this weekly (or after rain), because it will easily wash off.

Conclusion: Case Closed?

credit: giphy

So who is the suspect number one in the mystery of “Who Ate Your Pumpkins?”

Obviously, each case is unique and dependent on the suspects that are present in your garden.

We can rule out Mr Rabbit, who prefers leafy greens to the flesh of pumpkins.

Mrs Deer is a possibility, and you’ll know if she’s been around by the remains of smashed pumpkins on the ground.

If you have small chunks of pumpkin missing out of your fruits, then Master Squirrel may be your prime suspect.

Meanwhile, if you notice your pumpkins AND vines have been munched on, then Mr Woodchuck or Mr Mole are your best bet.