Tomato Killer on the Loose - What Ate My Tomatoes?

Tomato Plant Carnage

The top third of this tomato plant and 17 green tomatoes have been destroyed. Photo by Sally's Trove.
The top third of this tomato plant and 17 green tomatoes have been destroyed. Photo by Sally's Trove.

What is Eating My Tomatoes?

There is a tomato killer on the loose in the neighborhood, a marauder on the prowl just as dawn breaks. He’s stealthy, making no noise, casting no shadow. He enters my garden by way of a large common lawn he traverses after leaving the cover of a nearby creek bed that is surrounded by trees and shrubs. Once in the garden, he eats tomato leaves, stems, newly set tomatoes, and lovely, skirted tomato flowers. In his wake he leaves a ravaged tomato plant, a half of a gnawed green tomato lying on the ground a few feet away from the plant, and a smelly string of slimy scat on the lawn. He also leaves unidentifiable impressions in the dry mulch, but none on the bare garden ground that is parched and rock-hard from unseasonably hot, dry weather; what he does leave on the hard, dry ground are drops of liquid speckled with a few immature tomato seeds.

In his pre-dawn raid, the tomato killer devoured the upper third of a four-foot high tomato plant and 16 and one-half green tomatoes out of 19. I know this number exactly, because I’d counted the set tomatoes just the evening before. Oddly, he took no bites from the leaves and stems at the bottom two-thirds of the plant, although he did strip that area of flowers and set tomatoes.

When I first see this devastation in the garden, shortly after dawn, I want to cry out in frustration. Apparently it isn’t enough that I’ve already put my heart, mind, and body into waging war in the garden against bindweed, bugleweed, and Canada thistle. Although I’ve made great progress toward victory on that front, now I have a new invader to contend with.

I think this tomato killer is a mercenary hired by the garden weeds in their attempt to regain the ground they lost in my ongoing war against them.

My fervent hope is that this marauder gets a very bad belly ache from eating tomato stems, leaves, flowers, and green tomatoes.

The tomato plant with chewed stems and missing leaves, flowers, and fruits, but no litter on the ground. Photo by Sally's Trove.
The tomato plant with chewed stems and missing leaves, flowers, and fruits, but no litter on the ground. Photo by Sally's Trove.

I Begin with the Process of Elimination

I decide to begin solving this mystery with what I know the tomato killer can’t be, based on our local wildlife population and the evidence I’ve gathered so far.

It can’t be a tomato horn worm. Although two or three tomato horn worms can strip an entire tomato plant in a matter of hours, the horn worms are not yet active in our area. Plus, horn worms don’t eat a half of a green tomato and then toss the other half on the ground a few feet from the plant.

It can’t be a groundhog. A groundhog would have left bits and shreds of plant material on the ground (which the marauder did not do) and also would have started eating closer to the ground. In all likelihood, a groundhog would have destroyed the entire plant either by eating it all (they aren’t called “hogs” for nothing) or by eating through each stem, causing the top growth of the stem to topple to the ground.

It can’t be a squirrel. The bird lovers in our neighborhood provide the ideal environment for a squirrel by setting out bird feeders and bird baths. No squirrel in our neighborhood in its right mind would ever be driven to eat a tomato plant!

Slimy Scat

No deer left this dropping! Photo by Sally's Trove.
No deer left this dropping! Photo by Sally's Trove.

It can’t be a deer. This garden pest is a bit more difficult to eliminate. Indeed, a deer could eat the top third of the plant and could use its slender snout to root out the largest green tomatoes from behind the leaves and stems at the bottom two-thirds of the plant. However, a deer would have left its scat, which looks nothing like the scat the marauder left behind.

It can’t be a rabbit. Rabbits are not tall enough to take off the top third of a four-foot high tomato plant.

It Is Time To Re-examine the Evidence and Make Some Speculations

Now that I am sure what the marauder is not, I need to take a closer look at the clues at hand to figure out what the marauder is.

The scat. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It has a dark gray color and is pointed at one end. If it were stretched out instead of partially folded onto itself, it would be about four inches long. A bit of research leads me to the conclusion that it is not any kind of dog or cat poo; rather it is the fecal matter of a fox.

Drops of liquid on the ground. Whatever animal wreaked havoc on the tomato plant did it shortly before dawn. If the liquid had been left during the previous evening, or even during the wee hours of the morning, it would have dried before I saw it just after dawn. I do not know if the liquid is tomato juice that escaped when the fruit was bitten, or if the liquid is the tomato killer’s drool. What I can assume is that the culprit is active before dawn, in which case it is probably nocturnal. Although foxes in the wild are not necessarily nocturnal, they tend to develop that behavior in populated areas in order to avoid contact with humans and their machines.

This Tomato Escapes the Carnage

One of the two remaining tomatoes. Interestingly, this one is close to the ground. Photo by Sally's Trove.
One of the two remaining tomatoes. Interestingly, this one is close to the ground. Photo by Sally's Trove.

Top growth destroyed while tomatoes close to the ground were removed without damaging the lower leaves and stems. This clue puzzles me. The stems that were destroyed were very long, arching over so that their leaves were rather close to the ground, forming a kind of umbrella over the interior parts of the tomato plant. It could be that the marauder sampled these leaves and stems first, munching higher and higher until a final bite made what was left of the stem snap upright with the dessicated end too high to reach. If that is so, then the animal just moved on to the next low-hanging leaf and repeated the exercise. At some point, the seriously big fruits closer to the ground would have become more exposed, and a sleek snout, which a fox surely has, would have easily found the treasure.

I Bring Memory and Experience to Speculation

As I ponder the evidence, three recent experiences come to mind.

A few weeks ago a neighbor asked if I had heard terrifying sounds in the night, as if an animal were being attacked and killed. Indeed I had, over the course of two or three nights. Neither of us had a clue as to what the source of the sounds might be.

Then, a few days later, another neighbor asked if I knew about the red fox seen making its rounds at dusk and dawn. No, I had not.

Is This the Tomato Killer?

The majestic red fox, Vulpes vulpes.
The majestic red fox, Vulpes vulpes. | Source

Finally, three days before the attack of the tomato killer, while sitting on my patio just before dawn enjoying a cup of coffee and waiting for the sun to rise, I saw the fox, his nose to the ground, as he left the forested creek bed and headed out onto the common lawn. Suddenly, he froze in his tracks, as I had been frozen in my chair since seeing him, and after just a second or two he turned his head in my direction. He was only 20 feet or less away from me. His eyes locked onto mine. Just as suddenly, he snapped his head back and took off running.

Is the Tomato Killer a Fox?

Conclusions spawned from evidence, anecdote, and experience are not sufficient proof that the marauder is a fox. Proof will come from catching the culprit in the act, designing an experiment to proove my theory that this tomato carnage is the fox’s fault, or the fox will have to confess (which I don’t see happening).

Why would a fox be here?

I’ve been in this townhome community in a now densely populated exurb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, for nearly 13 years. I’ve seen deer, groundhogs, and skunks from time to time. These wildlife species make their appearances in my neighborhood for a while, and then they are gone. We neighbors know that wildlife is being displaced from natural habitats, as this still partially rural area continues to be developed with residential and commercial properties. Five years ago it was the groundhogs, three years ago the deer and the skunks. This year, it is the red fox, Vulpes vulpes.

Why would a fox eat tomato plants complete with leaves, stems, fruits, and flowers? It is hot and dry here. I suspect the fox is thirsty. Since I water the tomato plants daily, they are full of water, while the natural stream beds and ponds here are dry. It is sad that a fox has to resort to a tomato plant to quench his thirst.

My Dog's Hair as Fox Repellant

Using staples designed for anchoring plants into place, I anchor my dog's hair into strategic locations around the vulnerable tomato plants. Photo by Sally's Trove.
Using staples designed for anchoring plants into place, I anchor my dog's hair into strategic locations around the vulnerable tomato plants. Photo by Sally's Trove.

Evidence of a Footprint

Mulch is displaced near the devastated tomato plant, showing that the tomato killer took a step close to the plant, but then turned away. Photo by Sally's Trove.
Mulch is displaced near the devastated tomato plant, showing that the tomato killer took a step close to the plant, but then turned away. Photo by Sally's Trove.

I Move on To Protect My Garden from the Presumed Fox

On the day of the tomato plant devastation in the garden I started a thread in the HubPages forum asking for help in solving the mystery of the nocturnal marauder. Helpful posters contributed their thoughts and experiences.

That night, adding their suggestions and experiences to mine, I reached into a stash of my dog’s saved groomed fur and staked the fur around the devastated tomato plant and its two tomato plant companions that had not yet been traumatized by the presumed fox.

The next morning, I found that the culprit had visited the garden, the evidence being a new pile of fox-specific scat, had taken a step close to the devastated tomato plant, seen by a displacement of the mulch, but had turned away, meaning that there was no further destruction.

My dog Cinnamon, now resting in peace, is protecting the garden at least for now.

The grander issues of protecting displaced wildlife are yet to be resolved. And I have yet to prove that the fox is the tomato killer.

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Comments 72 comments

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

Whoo hoo! I almost HAD to peek at the conclusion, but I held myself in check.Quite the garden mystery.

I love the way you eliminated each suspect as the tomato killer. It does sound as if you've nailed it. I vote that the fox is guilty!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

bayoulady, I'm glad for your vote. I think it's the fox, too. I'm tempted to camp out tonight in the garden and see what happens...I know he won't confess, but maybe I can catch him in the act. On the other hand, I don't know if I want to come face-to-face with him in the pre-dawn hours, beautiful though he is. I'm a bit of a chicken, and chicken would be his preference.

Also glad you enjoyed the mystery.


Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 6 years ago from India

Sherlock Holmes would have been foxed too! :D

But a hurrah for Cinnamon...may she rest in peace! :)

(An aside...way back when I was wee, I had a fascination for tomatoes I hear...would sneak into my mother's plants (which were taller than me then) and eat all the ripe tomatoes..till one day I was caught red-handed...literally! :P)


Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 6 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

How cute is this, I love this story my friend, and I have foxes running around and wants to eat my tiny dog, it has already taken everyone's outdoor cats, it's simply amazing how brave they are...great story thumbs up


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India

Now that sounds like the stuff the best detective stories are made of. I can almost see the headline: 'Vas it the Vulpes?' Oh Sally - I'm sure you're frustrated about those tomatoes but what a wonderful tale you weave around them! And that fox - I hope he finds food that he really wants someplace else and doesn't have to make do with tomatoes!


sabu singh profile image

sabu singh 6 years ago

In this Hub, ST, you have out-marpled Miss Marple

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Marple)

and out-durrellel Gerald Durrell (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Durrell).

Wonderful reading. More power to your pen ST.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Wow, a lovely story, well laid out and followed through. Thank you.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

FP, that's a darling story about your mom's tomato plants. The plantings must have seemed like a forest to you, a forest with lots of fruit!

I think Cin, where ever she is, knows what's going on and is happy to be protecting us still.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Darlene, you've just answered a question I've been asking for a few days: Where have the neighborhood stray cats gone? There haven't been any signs of them lately--no rolling in the catnip, no using my garden for a litter box, and no spraying on the bushes. Oh dear. This info about your foxes also explains those horrible noises we'd heard a few nights ago. Thanks so much for your comment. Give your tiny dog a big scratch and some nice pats from me!


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada

Oh no, not the tomatoes... you silly old fox go for the squash instead (I don't like squash). How frustrating when you've nurtured these plants from small on and you're waiting and already anticipating some fabulous vine ripened tomatoes... I know just how you feel.

The tomato and cucumber killers in my neck of the woods are back-stabbing little monsters... much closer to home, the culprits over here are my own chickens--- the pain, the unbearable pain of being hurt thus by my own beloved flock...woe is me. I thought it might be a rabbit or two until I caught three of my feathered supposed friends taste testing each and every tomato and cucumber in an almost 1/4 acre garden.

Hahahaha... Chicken Paprikas will be served soon, want to come for dinner? Bring your Mom too there will be plenty... and while your here we'll make a stylish fox fur hat too.

What a great hub once again

hope you're well

kindest regards Zsuzsy


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Well, fox droppings, that little rascal. How dare he? Maybe if he sampled just one or two tomatoes, but 16.5 out of 19? That's just greedy.

I loved the way you wove the story into a mystery. Beautifully told and cute, I was captivated.


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

I know what it is! I can see it now, as it has moved into my garden, Let me go out and take a photo of it to send you. My God, it's fearsome, it's a .... oh no, it's got me it .....nooooo ..... aaaaaaaaaaaarch!!!!!!!!


trish1048 profile image

trish1048 6 years ago

Just wanted you to know, I put out an APB for the middle of the night marauder! I considered an AMBER alert for the tomatoes, but I fear it's too late for them :(


bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

This is my favorite garden how to of all time!MORE!


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

Well, gee, Sally, thanks for sharing the picture of the fox poop. haha. We have foxes in our neighborhood and I am glad to see them. They eat mice, rats, and other vermin. I can't imagine they would eat tomato plants but your clues sure point to Mr. Fox. I love a mystery and this was just great!

You can find audio samples of fox screams on the internet to be sure. The sound they make is just horrible!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Shalini, thank you so much for the wonderful compliments.

Vas it the Vulpes. That's hysterical, especially when you say it out loud!

I agree with you completely about the fox finding more enjoyable pastures. I am frustrated, but to tell you the truth, I can't think of anything more awful tasting than tomato greens, and I do hate the thought that he had to stoop that low!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Sabu, you are too, too kind. So, when are you writing that wiki article about moi? ;) Frankly, I think the pen got powered purely by being so angry at what happened to the tomato plant. Now here's a strategy for demolishing writer's block: have a fox eat your tomatoes!

Hh, glad you enjoyed. I'm always pleased when you come by for a read.

ZsuZsy, those ungrateful fowl! After all you've done for them! How could they? "Biting the hand that feeds you" comes to mind, too. Maybe I'll bring the live fox, he can have a last meal of an ungrateful, back-stabbing chicken or two, and then we'll make the hats. Mom and I'll be over soon as I can find a big enough carrier. Thank you so much for sharing your sad story. Truly, you do know how I feel. Wishing you all the best.


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 6 years ago from SE MA

We had tomato blight here last year. Hope we do not get it again.

The heat wave has caused our squash to just get gigantic! I was down there this morning and it feels like a jungle!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Peg, you hit the nail on the head. The greedy you-know-what. Interestingly, he didn't come back last night, and no one in the neighborhood has seen him. I do have mixed feelings about that. He just might be road kill. But I remain vigilant, replenishing Cinnamon's fur nightly. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment.

De Greek, now I warned you when I said I would not be camping out in the garden. You put yourself in harm's way, and I only hope the camera survives to tell the story of your demise.

Trish, my dearest friend, you did all you could do. Alas, you are right, the Amber alert does no good. The babies are dead.


trish1048 profile image

trish1048 6 years ago

I'm thinking they were aiming to make fried green tomatoes :)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

bayoulady, I am so glad you are enjoying this. Thank you SO much for your encouragement.

The next pest that comes into my garden will result in a call to an exterminator, the Pennsylvania state extension service, or a wildflife rescuer. And I promise to write about that.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Dolores, you bring up a really good point. I am plagued here with voles and moles, but since the fox has been around, these creatures are scarce.

I can imagine the night-time hunting expedition where the fox is looking for a meal. The voles and moles come out of their burrows at night...the fox has a good nose.

We are in such a delicate balance in this area. Nature can take care of itself, theoretically, if we let it. But, sadly, we are too preoccupied with McManses and strip malls.

At your suggestion, I found this (among other vids) on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxLHUxzEoRU

The sounds we've heard in the night in this neighborhood are much like the sounds in this video. They are the cries of the fox, not of the fox's victims.

Thank you so much for pointing us in this direction.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

PC, the good news is that you don't have a fox that needs to eat tomato plants. On the other hand, tomato blight comes and goes, and the best way to discourage it is to plant tomatoes in different places on a three-year rotation. Meanwhile, could you send some of those squashes this way????


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS

ST - I hate to break the news, but gray scat results when doggies eat lots of fresh-from-the-garden 'maters. Cinnamon is the sneak. ;->


FlyingPanther profile image

FlyingPanther 6 years ago from here today gone tomorrow!!

Sally, How amazing how you describe your hub til the end I was holding my breath and im thinking without knowing that it could be a fox!! I was siting in the dark the other night, little that I know it was a fox walking on the sidewalk!!they are coming out more in more lately...Thank you for sharing sally..I am sorry for your lost tho you been working so hard in your garden!

Love always.

Flyingpanther


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Trish, don't I wish. Have you ever had fried green tomatoes? They are awesome (I know I never made them for you). So when you come to visit, I'll make fried green tomatoes and we'll pay our respects in silence. :)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Nellie, Cin's been gone since April 9. And her poops were five times the size of this scat. But I'm glad you left this comment, because I do believe Cin is here in spirit. I've put her fur in the garden to ward off the culprit, and now you bring back her memory in a special way. I think she's looking at you with her smile and Groucho Marx eyebrows, lifting on the right and then on the left. I know she would like you very much.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Flying Panther, there seems to be a fox explosion in our counties. This is very strange. And also maybe very sad. For you to see a fox on the sidewalk is totally bizarre. We'll get together soon, my friend, and talk about all of this.


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 6 years ago from SE MA

I'd love to send you some squashes, but we've given them away here already and eaten the rest ourselves.

I haven't seen foxes here but I hear coy dogs all the time.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Sherri, we live in the suburbs and a have a fox! It isn't afraid of our huge dogs, either. In fact, it sometimes comes into our yard when I let the Danes out in the middle of the night. I think this one is lonely and wants to befriend our pooches.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Holle, it's so interesting to learn how behavior changes when a wild animal lives in proximity to humans. My fox eats tomato greens, and yours plays with Great Danes!


annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 6 years ago from Philly Burbs

I'm so sorry your maters got mauled, and I hope the ones you have left continue to grow and thrive!

At the barn, every time someone sees a mangey fox, we call our friendly wildlife rescuer and she laces chicken breast or a dead rat with Ivermectin and sets it out in the fox-freeway. Now we have a whole little family of happy shiny foxes. If you can capture your thief, we can put him with the ones at the barn - we don't have any tomatoes!

Love you, love your hubs. If you need more hair, Avi made you some.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Annemaeve, the barn environment over there is probably ideal for fox, with all that acreage and the flora and fauna it supports. Maybe I should plant my tomatoes over there...no sane fox would dream of eating tomato greens with all that other good stuff at hand.

I'll have you know MY fox is not mangy. In fact, I was amazed at the beautiful quality of his coat...maybe he's one of yours? Say, what WERE you doing over here last week when I wasn't home???


annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 6 years ago from Philly Burbs

Uhh... I... Errrr... :)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

I thought so! Love you. :)


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

Very intertaining. You had me hooked from beginning to end. I love the way you presented this problem like a mystery. Fantastic job. You're quite the writer.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Thank you so much for the kind words, KoffeeKlatch Gals. It gives me great pleasure to know my story had you hooked!


Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

Sally what a delightful mystery--you sound like me with your deductive elimination of possibilities. I think you Sherlocked it well and in gratitude for the fox's help in eliminating other pests, I suggest you leave a bowl of water just outside the fur barrier to both thank and give him no reason to pursue your tomato treasures. =:)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

HoHo, Winsome. That fox already got his reward, as far as I'm concerned, with his tomato plant dinner. The good news is that there has been a lot of rain lately, thus water to drink, and the fox has not returned in three days, nor has he been seen in the neighborhood. I do admit, I would feel terrible if his tomato dinner actually killed him. Glad you enjoyed the read.


2patricias profile image

2patricias 6 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

Pat writes: As soon as I got to the photo of the animal scat I thought "fox". I've never experience a fox eating tomatoes, but it makes sense if the weather has been dry for a while.

Tricia lives near the edge of our town and has had foxes in her garden for several years.

I live near the middle of town, with no open countryside near by. Last winter we had an exceptional amount of snow, lasting for days. One snowy day I saw a large fox in my garden. Maybe the cold weather and lack of town drove it into town.

The trouble is, Mr Fox seems to like it in town - or at least the area around my garden. I am mighty fed up with fox droppings on my lawn!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

*Sigh*...I am torn betwixt and between about the beauty and tradition of the fox and the devastation the fox can cause. He's the object of the hunt, and also a beautiful and adaptable creature, finding his opportunities in any land.

You both have given me an incentive to write more about the fox (who has not been seen on my grounds for more than three days). Although I have never had the pleasure to ride to the hunt, I have done my own hunting of fox on an isolated island off the New Jersey, USA coast (a subject for another Hub).

Oddly, I miss this fox. He is a creature of opportunity. I'd like to think my dog's fur was his deterrent, but I'm thinking that he is now road kill.

Thank you for a view into the suburbanization of the fox. While he frequents suburban gardens and leaves his scat, his life in suburbia is limited. Soon, you may not have to tread lightly, for his scat will be no more.

Missing your monthly chronicles about your gardens.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

Quite the 'murder' mystery, indeed. Who's murdering the tomatoes??

While I have some vegetables planted, we've not (knock wood) had any problems with marauders. We're pretty surrounded by urban sprawl, and even though there is an empty field behind us, and large 1/2 acre lots in this area, there are few invaders. Certainly no deer or fox. The occasional skunk or raccoon, but they don't seem to have a taste for vegetables.

Perhaps a security camera setup would catch your intruder for sure! ;-) (If only those things did not cost so much!)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Lizzy, I am somewhat sad that the fox seems to be gone. But before he went, he also ate a huge planting of peppermint, which I discovered only yesterday since that planting is in a different garden which I don't frequent often.

I agree that a security cam would do it, but that's not going to happen (for exactly the reason you say). I think as time goes on, talking with neighbors, I'll get a clearer picture of what happened to him.

True about the skunk and raccoon not having a taste for vegetables on the vine. They are not the marauders. But mix a little raw egg with some vegetable scraps, put it in a dish out on the lawn at night, and it will be gone, courtesy of raccoon, skunk, and 'possum, too.

Thanks for adding your thoughts here.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

You can find what kind of animal it is by tasting the scat.

No you can't! Don't do it!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Oh, don't worry, I won't! That's my taste-tester's job.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

UPDATE. There is fresh scat on the lawn, for the first time in 10 days, scat that I almost walked into while taking a long view of my recuperating garden. Tonight, I will refresh the ground around the tomato plants with Cinnamon's saved fur. The good news is that the unmistakable scat is about 20 feet from the garden. I imagine that the fox is keeping his distance because he doesn't like dog hair, and he must be really mad at me. Let's keep our fingers crossed that Cin's hair will protect what are now about 30 set tomatoes.


MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

I thought foxes only went for chickens, didn't know there are vegetarian ones around??? Good luck with finding out whether it is the fox or not. Funny hub.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Glad you enjoyed, MPG. The fox is quite opportunistic, like a dog, and is not strictly a carnivore. But I'll bet that fox would rather have had a chicken than a third of a tomato plant plus 16 and a half tomatoes!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

It takes a brave woman to post photos of poo!! LOL! Great story and happy tomato harvesting!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Steph, you are so right. That poo was disgusting. And I feel very brave about spending so much time with it with my camera.

So far, I've gotten only 10 ripe tomatoes off the plants, partly due to the arrival of tomato hornworms who leave equally repelling poo. Three cheers to us organic gardeners who would rather hand pick hornworms...disgusting, disgusting things...than use a pesticide.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

Good stuff here! :) Bravo for your bravery and kudos for your cunning as well as your writing!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

RTalloni, I'll take bravo and kudos any time. :) Glad you enjoyed!


marisuewrites profile image

marisuewrites 6 years ago from USA

What great powers of observation you have! I loved every word, and saw a little further into how your wonderful mind works, if you don't mind my observations of you. =))

Now, your wonderful descriptions remind me, as they always do, of a story my husband tells about a police investigation of a midnight theft from a store.

He made copious notes, observations, and lists of probable point of entry, what was taken, and possible exit from the store, as well as time of incident.

Then, he began to interview people who frequented the area. Would that he had started there, but cops are often locked into their routine.

One older man was very enlightening. He said something like this: "I think he came in from the roof, those old roofs and skylights are probly pretty easy to break down or take loose. Then, I think he had a small pinlight flashlight so as not to attract attention, and had brought a cloth bag, like a military duffle bag most likely. Now, he had to have come down on top of a high shelf, since draggin a ladder was not likely. That would also allow him to be able to leave with the heavy bag, you know, he could just toss it up on the shelf and then put it on his shoulder or tie it to him as he climbed back out onto the roof.

Now that would lead us to think he's a wiry thin and probably young feller. Yep, I think that's what happened."

Lynn looked at him and said "Yeah, well how'do ya figure all that?"

He replied "Cuz that's what I saw. Yep, that pert near describes it."

oh.

You "pert near" caught that fox in the act, and I vote "Guilty!" on all counts.

LOL, a delightful read, my dear friend. I love every clever deduction, Ms. Private-Eye-Protector-Of-All-Living-Things!

The Dog Hair, how ingenious! And who would not suspect you of saving a piece of dear CinCin. I cannot yet read that Hub, I'll have to pick a day when I'm strong.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Will Lynn be a reference for me if I want to apply for a job as an investigator? Actually, maybe YOU should be the reference! :)

I still have a bit of Cin's hair for emotional emergencies (a Hub will be coming along some day about using dog hair in the garden), but my wonderful daughter continues to gift me with baggies of Avi's fur for the majority of the garden. One thing I can say for sure: Cin was a big yet dainty-mannered, sweet-smelling doggie; Avi is a big galoot and a very stinky boy! (That's a loving comment, annemaeve, if you are reading.)

I never did catch the fox in the act, but a week or so after that night's devastation, the fox was no more seen in the neighborhood, and the tomatoes never went through that kind of devastation again.

Your comments are joys to read!


ashleyyoung profile image

ashleyyoung 6 years ago from United States

A very enjoyable read. Definitely worth sharing. Sly fox, lol! I loved how you wrapped this up into a mystery read. Keep them coming! :)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Thank you for the good words, Ashley. Glad you enjoyed the read!


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

Sally - I'm back. Though we have foxes in our neighborhood, I have not had the pleasure of hearing one scream. Unbelievably, we also had what I think may be a coyote. The idea of wild animals in the suburbs fascinates me. I've linked this to my hub about that subject, if that's okay with you.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Dolores, I'm delighted to see you back! Thanks so much for the link from your Hub, When is a Fox Not a Fox - A Coyote in the Suburbs. It was a beautiful read. I share with you that the presence of wildlife in the suburbs is a reminder that anything is possible.


saif113sb profile image

saif113sb 5 years ago

very informative hub. thanks


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

You are welcome. Thanks for reading and commenting!


ignugent17 profile image

ignugent17 5 years ago

Luckily we have tomato horn worm only well I don't like tomato horn worm too. They still kill tomato plants. But a fox that is too much. Thanks for the information.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

LOL ignugent17, a fox really was too much! We'll never find him in a gardening book under "tomato pests", but maybe that will change some day. Thanks for your comment that made me smile. :)


lobobrandon profile image

lobobrandon 5 years ago

Hi Sally this hub was surely one of a kind. When I write about tomato pests I'm sure to include foxes and link it back to you :D.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

LOL, lobobrandon. I like your spirit. Apparently you've been plagued with tomato pests, too. We can't write out the fox. I'll be looking for your Hub on tomato pests!


lobobrandon profile image

lobobrandon 5 years ago

It's coming soon :)

but my tomato pests were basically just caterpillars and worms as well as occasional diseases :)

we don't have foxes out here :D


theclevercat profile image

theclevercat 4 years ago from Massachusetts

I saw a fox once, sauntering down the street during the day as if he owned it.

Great hub! (Poor tomatoes!)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

The fox's environment has been so disturbed by development that it does not surprise me that you saw one sauntering down the street as if he owned it. Thank you for this poignant observation. The fox has no idea what he's gotten himself into, or what he's been thrown into.


David Garner 4 years ago

it happened to my garden. maby it is a fox. tell me how to elemanate it.----


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Lol, David. I haven't got a clue! All I can say is that after the destruction and a few subsequent sitings that summer, we never saw the fox again. Good luck!


eugbug profile image

eugbug 4 years ago from Ireland

Well investigated! I had two golf balls resting near a tree which often got rearranged. Eventually they disappeared. The prime suspect is a fox which I have seen on occasions in the garden! The theory is that they think golf balls are eggs!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

LOL, eugbug! Can foxes really be that stupid? What happened to "sly"?

This is a great observation. We can only speculate about the causes of the balls being rearranged and then disappearing. And it's our speculation. I think the fox took them, but maybe for a different purpose. Like maybe to tell you, well you didn't clean up the balls, although I gave you every chance, so they are mine now!

This little episode is definitely seed for a great story.


timi73 4 months ago

That IS fox poop, and they spray a very disintctive hormone that has a smell you do not forget. Their urine is very strong and sweet/sour nose burning smell. They love tomatoes and their foliage. My Family had a Fox farm growing up.

You have a Fox, most likely more than one.. Not necessarily and most likely not at the same time. However, when they leave their scent, it attracts other Fox. Keep using dog hair, get a trap. They are smart and will figure out the dog hair is a decoy. They are so incredibly sneaky and when a female has pups- MEAN! Be careful. You definitely have your culprit.

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