10 Animals That Eat Tomatoes at Night (ID Guide)

Waking up to bitten tomatoes in your garden is a heartbreak no gardener would want to experience. Therefore, it’s crucial for you to take the right measures to safeguard your tomatoes from predators, most of whom attack at night. However, you need first to get to know the thief better before applying countermeasures. 

Here’s a list of 10 common animals that eat tomatoes at night:

  1. Skunks
  2. Raccoons
  3. Rats and Field Mice 
  4. Deers
  5. Squirrels
  6. Groundhogs 
  7. Voles
  8. Rabbits 
  9. Stray cats
  10. Dogs 

Read on to understand how to identify each of these animals’ marks in your garden and tomatoes. You’ll also learn the best ways to deal with each predator.

1. Skunks

As unlikely as it might seem, a skunk could be one of the unwanted guests in your tomato garden at night. However, these animals don’t usually come into your garden to eat tomatoes. 

Skunks are foragers and prefer to eat insects such as Japanese beetles and tomato hornworms. However, if they find a tomato on their way, they will take a bite of the most low-lying fruit on your tomato vine. 

Skunks mostly dig holes in the ground when hunting for food. The low-lying tomatoes in your garden could just be in their way. Most skunk bitten tomatoes have only one bite and are left to rot on the ground. 

You’ll know if a skunk was in your garden if you spot holes in the ground that are about 4 in (0.33 ft). 

Skunks are usually most active in the spring, as the summer heat forces them to look for cooler places to live. They shouldn’t be that much of a threat unless your tomatoes are infested with worms that are a delicacy for skunks. 

Some other infestations you might need to look out for are:

  • Hornworms 
  • Garden grubs
  • Fruit flies 
  • Voles 

To get rid of skunks in the garden, you’ll have to treat these infestations. If you don’t, you’ll be dealing with the skunk problem all season long. 

2. Raccoons

Raccoons are also notorious culprits in fruit gardens because they are nocturnal and are omnivores. They feed on almost anything from fruits to insects because they can swim, climb and run. 

However, even though fruits are common in most racoons’ diets, they aren’t usually their favorite item on the menu. Most times, a raccoon will take a bite or two at your tomatoes and leave them while scouring for something better to eat. 

Unlike skunks, raccoons are deliberate when they start to bite off on your tomatoes. In case a raccoon visits your tomato garden at night, you’ll find many bitten tomatoes on the ground the following morning. 

It’s hard to tell if a raccoon visited your garden at night unless you’re monitoring your garden diligently 24 hours. 

A cheaper alternative would include tracking the animal using its paw prints. 

You can leave some sand or wet soil around your tomato plants at night to capture the animal’s prints. A raccoon has five toes on the front paws that look like handprints. The hind paws are the same, but they have an elongated heel. 

When raccoons move around, most of their weight is supported by the hind legs. The hind paws will be deeper in the soil than the front paws. 

Adult raccoons are between 2 and 3 ft (24-36 in) long. You can identify them by measuring the distance between the front and hind paws. 

The only sure way to ward off raccoons is by trapping them. As a last resort, you could also move your crops at least 5 miles (8.05 km) away, because raccoons will always come back once they locate food in your garden. 

3. Rats and Field Mice 

If you see a trail of poop, especially near the fence of your garden, your unwanted visitors are probably rats and field mice. These rodents leave a trail of excrements in the garden. The amount of feces left behind is directly correlated to the number of invaders entering your garden.

Most rats feed on low-lying tomatoes, but height does not scare them off. If rats or mice are really hungry, they can jump as high as 48 in (121.92 cm) and can survive a 50 feet (15.24 m) fall. If your tomatoes are in a raised garden, they’ll jump to reach the fruits and eat to their heart’s desire. 

Rats and field mice usually move in groups and can be very destructive to your garden. They leave their droppings in groups, and it is easy to tell them apart from other predators. Their poop is usually a quarter to a half-inch (0.635-1.27 cm) in size. 

The best way to deal with these intruders is by using chemical poisons to kill the mice. You can lace some tomatoes or other edibles such as cheese with the poisons to lure the rodents. However, this will leave you with an unpleasant smell in your garden if the rodents die there. 

Another way of dealing with rats and field mice in your garden is by trapping them. You can place traps along your fence and leave food on them to lure the rodents. Once they are trapped, you can discard them in whatever way you deem right. 

4. Deers

If there are deers near your garden, you might consider protecting your tomatoes from them. 

Deers are nocturnal feeders who like to visit gardens for easy and uninterrupted meals. Unlike other foragers, deers eat both the vines and the tomato fruits in your garden. If a deer is hungry enough, it will eat the whole vine, leaving entire sections of your garden completely bare. 

However, if the deer is not that hungry, it will munch off the top part of the vines alongside the tomatoes. These feeding habits are detrimental to your tomatoes because cutting off the tip of the vine inhibits your plant from further growth. This means that you will have a lower harvest than you had anticipated. 

If deers visit your garden at night, you’ll notice their hove prints in the soil. Frankly, there aren’t too many animals with hooves that like breaking into gardens for easy meals, so this would be a tell-tale sign. 

You can also tell if a deer was munching on your tomato garden by the damage caused to your plants and fruits. Unlike rodents, deers bite off the top of your plants and eat the top fruits. 

You can keep deers away from your garden by erecting a tall fence around it. Be keen on making it tall because deers can jump really high if they badly need the food inside your garden.

Alternatively, you can use tall plastic cages around your tomatoes in the garden. These will stop the deers from reaching your tomato vines and fruits. 

You can also use solar lights resembling predators in the garden to steer off deers. Deers get scared quickly, and if they think there is a predator in the garden, they won’t come in. These lights could be expensive, but they are an excellent way to keep off deers and other tomato predators from your garden.

5. Squirrels 

Squirrels look all cute and furry until you catch them eating your tomatoes while staring you in the eye. They love the tomato fruit and will keep invading your garden in the night if you do nothing to keep them out. 

Squirrels are small animals and can fit through small gaps in your fence and gain entry into your garden. Sometimes, they dig holes under the fence to enter your garden or climb over the fence. 

Unlike other rodents, squirrels enjoy tomatoes. They feed on the low-lying fruits and keep coming back for more as long as there’s a supply. 

If you’ve spotted squirrels in your garden, there are several approaches you can use to scare them away. 

You can use motion-activated water sprinklers in your garden at night. These sprinklers will let out the water once they sense a movement in the garden. Squirrels don’t like getting wet, so they’ll run off once the sprinklers are active. 

Motion-activated sprinklers will also help to wade off other unwanted guests such as :

  • Deers
  • People
  • Rodents
  • Stray cats

While it might be tempting to use sprinklers to water your tomatoes, it is better to point them away. Tomato plants have sensitive foliage that becomes susceptible to disease when wet. Therefore drip irrigation is the better option for watering, as you can learn in my other article: Should You Water Your Tomatoes With a Sprinkler?

Other alternatives to keep squirrels out of your garden include:

  • Using tomato cages
  • Installing electric fences
  • Using scarecrows

6. Groundhogs

Groundhogs are vegetarians and will eat almost everything in your garden. However, they have a particular liking for tomatoes and can finish off the fruit in your garden in a few days or nights. 

One indicator that a groundhog is your thief of the night is finding 10-12 in (0.83-1 ft) holes in your garden. Groundhogs love to dig tunnels in the ground, meaning you’ll likely be able to spot several of them. The holes can serve a trail of how the animal moved in your garden. 

Groundhogs will also bite off huge chunks from your tomatoes. This is usually annoying because they don’t eat the whole fruit. They will take a big bite from one fruit and move on to the next one. 

One way to catch the groundhogs and stop them from invading your garden is by trapping them. This can be tricky because they rarely go through the same hole twice. However, you can contact the local pest and rodent control office and let them help you trap the animal. 

You can also improve your fence to prevent the groundhogs from entering your garden. Although they dig deep, you can stop the animals by digging your fence even deeper. In this case, you’d need to use wire mesh alongside strong fencing poles for the fence to hold and keep the intruders out. 

You can also use repellents to keep groundhogs off your garden. These animals hate the smell of ammonia and will not go anywhere near it. You can soak a few rags in ammonia and leave them lying around your garden. 

Epsom salt is also a great way to keep your tomatoes safe from groundhogs. Groundhogs don’t like the taste of the salt, and once they detect it on your soil, they won’t be coming back. 

Sprinkle the garden with Epsom salt and leave it there for a few days. However, this is something regarding which you need to consult with soil experts first. Epsom salt could be a great addition to your soil, but it could also ruin your garden’s acidity. 

7. Voles 

Voles look like moles and have almost the exact same characteristics. They are small furry animals with large front teeth and strong muscular bodies that help them dig around gardens when looking for food. 

Voles are mostly herbivorous animals and will feed on the roots and leaves of your tomato plants before leaving them for dead. They can also eat insects, larvae, and earthworms. Once in a while, a vole will bite through your tomato fruits as they look for food. 

Like moles, you’ll know you have voles in your garden if you find holes dug near your withering tomato plants. Unlike groundhogs, voles don’t make random holes in the ground. They go straight for the root of the plant. 

Voles can dig up holes around your garden’s fence and find their way inside. The best way to keep them out is using repellants or perlite, which irritates their skin.

Voles hate the smell of castor oil. Sprinkling some of it will keep the animals out of your garden. It is a great way to use non-chemical repellents that won’t affect your tomatoes.

You can also use tomato cages around your plants to keep the voles out. Voles particularly like to munch away on young stems. If they can’t reach your plant’s stems, they can’t do much damage to the fruit. 

You also need to keep your lawn clean. Voles will thrive in gardens with vegetation cover and will cower away if they’re too exposed. 

If you intend to trap the voles, look for the small holes in your garden. These animals stay in their holes during the day and wait for nightfall to come out and forage for food. If you place traps on the entrance of the holes, you’ll catch the animals and keep them off your garden. 

Solar-powered spikes are also an excellent  way to keep voles out of your garden. Most rodents are partially blind and rely on vibrations to tell them that an attacker is within. The solar-powered spikes will vibrate in the ground and make the rodents think predators are around. That should keep them off your garden. 

Contact the local pest and rodent control company if the voles become too much of a nuisance. Sometimes, these things are best left to the experts.  

8. Rabbits

Rabbits are one of the most notorious tomato thieves that operate during the night. If you live near a wildlife conservancy or savannah, these small furry animals could be the unwanted visitors in your garden. 

They love nightshade plants such as tomatoes and peppers. Unfortunately, they damage both the plant and fruits as they look for food. 

Rabbits will leave a track of paws in the soil after they visit your garden. It is also common to see their droppings all around the garden. 

The animals move very fast, and it is hard to catch them even if you see them eating your tomatoes. You could let out a dog to scare them away, but that would mean more damage to your garden. 

One way to keep off rabbits is by using chicken mesh to create a firm fence around your garden. Rabbits don’t dig deep into the ground, and the chicken mesh should keep them out. If this doesn’t work, you can use tomato cages around your plants. 

You could also use scarecrows in your garden to scare away the rabbits. The creatures are easily scared, and any movement in the garden that looks like a predator will throw them off. 

9. Stray Cats

A stray cat in the neighborhood could prove to be a menace to your tomato garden. 

Cats are nocturnal animals and will move at night to look for food. Stray cats are usually so hungry that they’ll bite off anything they think is edible.

Although cats are carnivorous, most stray cats don’t have much choice in what they feed on. However, they will not eat an entire tomato. A stray cat will mostly take a bite of the fruit and leave it on the ground to rot. 

A stray cat will often be in your garden to catch rodents such as moles, field mice, and rats. The best way to keep the cat away is to deal with the rodent problem. 

10. Dogs

Sometimes the enemy is right inside your home. 

Dogs are playful and may wander off into the garden at night when chasing a rabbit or a mouse. Unfortunately, the movements in the garden will shake off the tomatoes from the plants before maturity. The dog will trample on your plants and even cause irreparable damage in some cases. 

Train your furry friend not to enter the garden. Better still, you can fence the garden with chicken mesh to keep the dog out.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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