Animals That Eat Blueberries

Animals That Eat Blueberries
Fact Checked and Reviewed by: Mark Rhodes, Ph.D. - Wildlife Biologist
Dr. Mark Rhodes holds an MS in Fisheries and Wildlife along with a Ph.D. in Wildlife Ecology. He helps maintain our editorial standards of accuracy and quality. You can read more about Dr. Rhodes here.

Whether we’re talking about the low bushes of wild blueberries or the high bushes of cultivated blueberries, one thing is certain, they are incredibly delicious. Unfortunately, humans aren’t the only ones who find these berries tasty, and if you happen to grow them on your property then you know that the blueberry bush can attract all sorts of critters.

Or perhaps you don’t and in that case, you might be wondering what animals keep eating your blueberries?

Depending on where you live you can find various animals feeding on the blueberry fruit, leaves, twigs, or the whole bush. Black bears, deer, horses, foxes, skunks, opossums, and raccoons enjoy eating blueberries, as well as rodents like squirrels, groundhogs, and rats, different species of birds, and insects like ants and blueberry maggot flies.

If you want to know which animals keep creeping into your garden and eating your precious blueberries, and how to keep them from repeating this crime then keep on reading!

Black Bears

This might come as a surprise to some, but black bears actually love blueberries. In fact, they’re big into their berries since 80% of their diet consists of plants, and only 5% consists of animal matter, which leaves the other 15% to insects.

You’re not going to find these large blueberry eaters everywhere, so some of you don’t even have to consider these animals unless, of course, you live on the North American continent. But you can also find them as far south as northern Mexico.

If you suspect that a black bear is eating your berries including blueberries, then you can check for bear tracks around the blueberry bushes, as well as bear droppings.

While black bears are rarely aggressive you shouldn’t follow any bear trails. Instead, you need to call a wildlife service so they can help remove the bear from your property.

It’s also worth noting that black bears are not nocturnal, but because they want to avoid humans they can become nocturnal. Depending on where you live you might find them rummaging through your property in broad daylight.

To keep your blueberries safe from bears, you need to make sure your property is clean, as well as your barbeque, and consider getting animal-proof trash cans.

Any smell of food can attract these chunky animals, and they will quickly become a nuisance.

Deer

Deer is another animal on our list that might not affect everyone’s garden, but if these critters do live in your area then there’s a high possibility that they’re responsible for eating your blueberries.

Not only are they going to pick the fruit, but they can also cause significant damage to the plants. A hungry deer can eat the leaves of young blueberry bushes, but they will also break twigs simply from their effort to get to the berries.

Deer are also primarily nocturnal or crepuscular, so they will more likely damage your newly-planted small fruit trees and shrubs like blueberries during the night.

So, make sure to look for deer hoof prints, and deer droppings around the blueberry bushes, and your garden overall since these animals can eat other plants you might be growing from zucchinis to leafy greens like cabbage.

To prevent deer from destroying your blueberry bushes, fencing is the best option. You can keep the deer from reaching the leaves or berries by caging the bushes.

Horses

While there are a lot of wild animals on this list, I do think it’s worth mentioning that finding your blueberries eaten might be an inside job.

If you own horses and they have access to your garden then they might be the ones munching on the leaves and berries. Perhaps your blueberry bushes are growing too close to the fence where you keep your horses.

This is quite possible since horses have quite long necks and blueberry bushes can grow up to 5 to 6 feet tall.

Blueberries are rich in vitamins A, B, B1, B2, and C among other things, so it’s no surprise that your horse or horses will munch on them.

But if you want to keep your blueberry bushes intact, or reduce the blueberry intake of your horse then you can replant the bushes or add a cage over them to keep them out of reach.

Foxes

Despite their cute appearance, sharing your land with foxes can be quite annoying, not only because of their spooky cries, but because they can be vicious chicken killers and blueberry eaters.

In fact, being omnivores means that foxes are likely to also go through your raspberries, blackberries, cherries, plums, and more.

If in your case foxes are to blame then you will most likely find fox droppings right there at the crime scene. The droppings will look quite dark because of the berries.

Your blueberry bushes and other plants might look trampled, and you will likely find half-eaten fruit and berries on the bushes or all around. Additionally, you will also smell a musky odor!

To keep foxes out of your garden you need to make sure they have no access to water or food, especially if you have pets.

Keep the trash cans secure, and if possible try to block any possible entrances so that foxes won’t sneak their way into your garden.

Skunks

Speaking of smells, instead of a fox you might have a skunk rummaging through your garden and specifically your blueberry bushes.

Skunks are also nocturnal so it might be difficult to spot them unless you look for the usual signs they leave behind. As you can imagine there will be the smell, but also shallow holes in the soil or lawn since skunks also forage for grubs.

Your blueberry bushes will sport far fewer blueberries, especially at the bottom, but the bush itself might be damaged, particularly the lower leaves.

Removing certain attractants around your garden can help you get rid of skunks. That includes securing your trash and moving your pet’s food inside.

Adding a fence or nets around your blueberry bushes or any other plant they enjoy eating and keeping a clean garden can also help.

Opossums

Opossums are another nocturnal critter on our list that enjoys the taste of blueberries.

It’s true that they eat meat and hunt for other smaller animals, but they also go for nuts, grass, and fruit.

The first thing you need to do is check your trash can for scratch marks, as well as foul odors. Of course, don’t forget to check the blueberry bush for broken and bare branches, chewed leaves, and missing berries.

Similarly to skunks and raccoons, opossums are attracted to smells, so if you want to keep your blueberries away from them then secure your trash, and keep your pet’s food inside.

Fencing and netting your blueberry bushes and other fruit they seem to prefer can also help. Additionally, smells like ammonia, and garlic can keep these animals out of your garden.

An interesting fact about opossums is that they have a talent at playing dead, this trick can last up to six hours and while they might not be aggressive toward humans it’s important to call wildlife services before interacting with this critter.

Raccoons

I’m sure most of us have seen videos where raccoons use their tiny little paws to take the food that they’ve found or was presented to them

So, as you can imagine these tiny human-like hands can do a good job when it comes to berry picking.

While this image might evoke a cute “ahhh”, there’s a serious risk of contracting a disease from raccoons, like roundworm.

While raccoons are nocturnal, they can easily hide in blueberry bushes and attack you if they feel threatened, as a result, you could possibly get rabies.

If you suspect raccoons then check for five-toed paw tracks, and fecal droppings next to the plants. Additionally, check your fencing for scratches, and whether someone was rummaging through your trash.

Using smells like ammonia, or pepper spray around your blueberry bushes and garden can help deter raccoons, but you also need to make sure your property is clean.

Installing netting or a fence around your blueberry bushes can also help keep their little paws away from your tasty berries.

Groundhogs

Don’t be surprised if the animal behind your destroyed blueberry bushes, is a groundhog, because these critters enjoy eating garden fruit and vegetables, including berries.

Since groundhogs consume a third of their weight in vegetation a day, we’re talking about a lot of damage, especially if you got more than one groundhog burrowing into your property, or even one groundhog entering your little garden.

To ensure a groundhog is to blame, you need to look for signs like wide teeth marks on your plants, deep burrow holes, and piles of dirt that might be burrow entrances.

If all signs point to a groundhog then you need to keep the garden neat so they don’t have anywhere to hide and harvest the blueberries and the rest of your veggies and fruits as often as possible.

You can also use wire fencing to keep the groundhogs out of your property or away from your blueberries. But if nothing seems to work then it might be time to call the professionals!

Squirrels, Chipmunks And Other Rodents

Blueberries are rich in carbohydrates and sugars, which makes them a great meal for all sorts of rodents, like squirrels and chipmunks.

Being closer to the ground chipmunks can easily get to your blueberry bushes, and since they are excellent climbers they can get through each branch while munching on the sweet berries.

In their case you should look for small holes in your lawn, and since they love bulbs make sure to check whether these little critters have uprooted them.

Squirrels can also reach your blueberries from the ground or from trees that might be growing next to your garden.

Both of these animals will steal ripening fruits and vegetables and during the hot months they will go for the ones that are the juiciest.

Because of their small teeth marks, it can be difficult to differentiate between the two animals, but also other small rodents like rats and mice.

Make sure to check for rat and mouse droppings, burrows, as well as scratching noises. Their droppings can be particularly dangerous since they can spread illness to humans.

To keep these critters away from your blueberries, keep your garden clean, and any bins sealed. I would also advise you to call animal control to deal with a more persistent rodent problem.

Rabbits

While blueberries are usually ready for picking between the months of June and August, rabbits will actually nibble on the stems of blueberry bushes in the late fall and winter.

As you can imagine this can cause irreversible damage to your bushes, which means that you won’t see any blueberries growing during the summer.

That’s why you need to check on your blueberry bushes every season. Look for rabbit droppings. Rabbits will more often than not eat the lower parts, that’s the roots, lower branches, and stems.

Using smelly sprays like a garlic mix, with water, soap, and hot pepper flakes can deter rabbits from eating your blueberry blushes, but consider putting a fence around the plants just to be safe.

Different Species Of Birds

There is a great number of bird species that will fly into your garden and go straight for the blueberry bushes.

Larger species like geese, wild turkeys, and whooping cranes, will gobble the whole berry, while smaller birds like thrushes, robins, Cardinals, Mockingbirds, and bluebirds among others, will peck into the fruit, in which case you are more likely to find some of the blueberries damaged or even undamaged scattered around the bush.

Visual and auditory deterrents can help scare the birds away from your garden, but they don’t always work long-term.

So, the most effective way to keep any bird, small or big, from eating your blueberries is netting. The good thing about netting is that it’s also effective against many other animals on our list.

Blueberry Maggot Fly

The blueberry maggot fly got its name for a reason!

According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “this pest feeds inside blueberry fruit and caused damage in commercial blueberry production in the eastern and southern United States, as well as in eastern Canada.”

The blueberry maggot fly will lay its eggs in the berries, and the larva will cause the berry to become soft. Unfortunately, the damage is usually hard to detect before harvesting the blueberries.

Once you harvest the affected fruit you will see maggots crawl out of it.

If you’re worried that your blueberries are affected by this pest, you can use yellow sticky boards to trap the adult flies, but if the problem is more serious then you will have to use the appropriate pesticide.

Smaller Yellow Ants

There are numerous ant species and they can be found practically everywhere on the planet.

These tiny critters are omnivorous so they will feed on other insects, but they will also consume the sap of plants and various fruits, which can include blueberries.

However, there’s one specific ant species associated with blueberry bushes, and that’s the smaller yellow ant.

These insects won’t harm your blueberry plant directly, instead, they will consume mealybugs that are present on blueberry leaves, stems, and roots.

You see mealybugs are the ones sucking the sap from the plant and eventually killing it, and ants move the mealybugs from plant to plant so they can keep eating mealybugs. They kill plants by leaving behind a sticky liquid that encourages sooty mold to grow. This sooty mold disrupts photosynthesis.

So, you need to check the roots of your blueberry bushes for white cottony insects, as well as for anthills, and the ants themselves. You can also look for mealybugs on the plant itself, or look for the sooty mold they leave behind.

These ants tend to go for gardens that are overgrown, so you need to make sure the grass is cut often.

Make sure to get rid of the mealybugs as well, and if you’re not sure how to deal with one or both of these insects then consider hiring a pest professional.

Do Rabbits Eat Blueberries?

If you’ve ever had a house rabbit then you probably know that a couple of blueberries are a great treat for these little guys, but when it comes to wild rabbits, they won’t just sneak into your garden for the fruit itself. Instead, most rabbits will feast on your blueberry bushes during the wintertime when food is scarce.

This as you can imagine can cause a lot of damage resulting in an underwhelming harvest of blueberries when summer finally arrives.

Do Deer Eat Blueberries?

Depending on where you live, deer can be a great nuisance because if they have access to your garden, they will eat more than just the high-energy berries, they will eat the young twigs, the stem, and the leaves.

In fact, blueberry leaves are even more nutritious than the berries, so no wonder deer will also eat them!

Do Squirrels Eat Blueberries?

Since blueberries are safe for squirrels to eat, they are part of their diet, and since squirrels can be found basically everywhere around the globe, don’t be surprised that some of them are entering your garden and picking fruit from your blueberry bushes.

Aside from the berries squirrels can also munch on the blueberry leaves as well.

Do Rodents Like Blueberries?

It’s important to keep your blueberry bushes protected all year round.

For example, rodents can cause damage to your blueberries during the winter since they feed on the bark of blueberry plants.

Rodents will either girdle them completely or partially. Woodchucks may also damage the root system of your blueberries.

From late fall to early spring voles will usually be the ones to cause damage to the roots of blueberry plants.

Do Insects Like Blueberries?

There are various insect species that can destroy your blueberry crops, from the blueberry maggot fly we discussed above, and the blueberry mealybug, to various ants, but these aren’t the only bugs out there.

Cutworms, spanworms, and blueberry bud mites can affect the buds. Blueberry blossom weevil and flower thrips can damage the blueberry flowers.

You should also check the leaves for aphids, blueberry tip borers, blueberry flea beetle, blueberry gall midge, and blueberry stem gall wasp among many many others.

The fruit itself can also be affected by numerous insects like the cherry and cranberry fruitworm, the three lined flower beetle, and more!

Each one might require a different approach, and different pesticides or natural sprays, but before you use any chemicals make sure you contact the professionals for the most appropriate and environmentally friendly approach.

How To Keep Animals From Eating Your Blueberry Bushes?

Seeing your blueberries half-destroyed or completely destroyed can make you lose hope for the next year’s harvest, but if you take the right measures you can find the right ways to protect your sweet berries!

Netting

Netting can be really effective at protecting your blueberry bushes from various animals, like birds, deer, and even raccoons, skunks, and rodents.

That being said mesh netting can be too soft, and rodents can find a way to bite through the netting and still get in.

Metal cages on the other hand are a much more secure option, as long as they are placed deep enough into the soil, otherwise burrowing rodents will manage to create a tunnel that goes right under the cage.

Fencing

Netting is an affordable way to protect your blueberry bushes, but it’s not always effective, especially against strong or persistent animals.

In that case, fencing is the way to go. You will need to make sure that the fence is at least six inches deep, otherwise, rodents like woodchucks, voles, and other similar critters will still manage to find their way in.

Building a permanent fence can be expensive but it’s definitely a worthy investment!

Pest Repellent

When it comes to insect control you can always turn to natural homemade sprays and sticky yellow traps.

However, depending on the level of infestation, you might need something stronger. Before you go to your local garden shop you need to make sure what chemicals you’re allowed to use, and when you’re allowed to use them

Many pesticides cause harm to bees and other pollinators, so before you spray your blueberries contact your local pest control and ask them for advice.

While I know how tasty homegrown blueberries are, we still need to make sure we’re keeping our planet safe!

Noisemakers, Scent, and Visual Repellents

Various noisemakers, bird bangers, and visual repellents like scarecrows, and shiny ornaments can help drive away birds, but the effect might not be as long-lasting.

Outdoor lights and noise can also keep certain animals like deer or raccoons out of your property, but even these repellents might not stop hungry and desperate animals.

Using various scents like ammonia, and essential oils like cinnamon or peppermint oils can also help reduce the number of possible intruders.

Get An Outdoor Pet

Having a dog comes with a lot of perks. Not only will they keep an eye on your property from human intruders, but their scent and presence should also keep certain rodents, as well as raccoons out of your garden. Dogs are also capable of scaring away birds from eating your blueberries.

Cats can have a similar effect, especially when we’re talking about birds and smaller rodents.

That being said, pets are not a perfect solution, and all those blueberry eaters might still find ways to sneak into your garden.

Closing Thoughts

Knowing what kind of animals keep feasting on your blueberries can help you find the right means to protect these bushes, as well as other plants that grow in your garden and your overall property.

Some of the animals on this list might not be applicable to your situation, for example, you might not share your land with some of these critters, like the black bear or deer. This means that you can narrow down your list of suspects.

Hopefully, after reading more about these animals you’ll be able to identify the culprit and save your precious plants from further pillaging!