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Sudden Rapture of Pears

 
Posts: 46
Location: Central Vermont
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Several years ago, we planted a couple of pear trees in the "wayback" of our .6 acre yard. People use the back of our yard as a walking path parallel to a river, with recreation areas nearby.

10 days ago, there was about 40# of fruit on the trees, our first harvest since planting them in 2013 (aside from one or two last year).

Yesterday there was nothing.

Not a single pear.

There were no pears at the tippy-top, and no pears on the ground.
There was no sign of damage to either tree.

A nearby apple tree was full of apples (which we did harvest).


What are the odds that this is a non-human intervention?
Central VT. We have bear, deer, and woodchuck.. hardly any squirrels that I have seen.
 
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I had something similar happen.

My pear tree had probably 100 pears on it.

The next day I was cutting grass, and I looked up at the tree, and at first it looked like all the pears were gone, and I couldn't find any under the tree either. I looked closer and saw a few pears remaining at the top, and right next to them sat a raccoon staring right back at me.

I don't know how in the world he cleaned that whole tree in a day. Maybe it was a raccoon party and he was just the last to leave.
 
pollinator
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That happened to our one and only Peach year.  One day, nearly ripe peaches; the next day, a carpet of pits under the tree.

Raccoons or 'possums.
 
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Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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We've had this happen also...at our other home where the pear tree was farther from the house out of sight.  
One day full of pears and the next all gone with no trace.  We were pretty sure it was a whole family of raccoons that just stripped the tree bare.

Way back, we had some wild hazelnuts we were watching carefully to pick when they were ready...that time we guess it was mice, chipmunks? or some small critter that *knew* when to harvest them just ahead of us...sometimes that happens with blueberries too...a bird peck on the 'almost' ripe ones.

...such a disappointment...raccoons don't understand the meaning of 'sharing'
 
pollinator
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Oh I don't know. I've seen some very interesting recipes in "The Joy of Cooking" for racoon. I'm sure they'd share out quite nicely. And there's possum pie, and rat-tatouille...

And those coon-skin caps used to be quite en vogue. I am sure that enough delicious fruit bandits would make one hell of a winter coat.

-CK
 
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put up a trail cam to keep an eye on things
 
pollinator
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Another vote for racoons. Many years ago when we still had a pear tree on the farm we had this happen. Dad told me that he was watching the tree and checking every day as it was the first year it had set fruit. Overnight it was stripped clean. A few piles of racoon poop nearby were the only traces of what happened. Sadly, the following winter we had an ice storm and winds that took out that pear tree.
 
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My bet is that it was birds.

People gripe about deer, bear, coyotes etc; but on my farm, birds have done more damage then anything else.

 
Cynthia Quilici
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Thanks for the replies so far. Raccoons would not be outside the realm of possibility, but I have to say I haven't actually seen any raccoons (even road-kill ones) in the 7 years since I moved to VT. It's possible I am living too sheltered a life.

Travis, I would def. blame birds for the disappearance of—say—berries, but I find it hard to believe they can wipe out two pear trees without a trace of pecked fruit. I don't think they could carry away a 200g pear, could they? We are talking 100% evaporation.

Will look for poop signs, though, and plan for next year (too late to do anything now). A game cam would be in order, if we are still here in the fall, just to assuage my curiosity.
I would like to try making bone sauce and see if that could work. Will report back next year if I go that route.

This is a property "in town" so I hadn't thought about heavy-duty protection measures against wildlife when thinking about larger fruits.
Apples have been untouched, and also peaches were not molested in the least, so the pear rapture took me by surprise.

 
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Could it be bears?

I have had apple trees stripped of fruit each year, and an entire crop of cantaloupes disappeared one year at the peak of ripeness while away for 5 days. Maybe coons or possums, but I would think they would leave some evidence behind.

In my case, I never did confirm the culprit - could have been human, but unlikely, as I am fairly well off the beaten path.
 
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I just have to say, I love the title of this post
 
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Hey!! Did you ever figure it out? This has happened to us two years in a row now. It is literally jaw-dropping to have a tree full of pears be stripped without a trace overnight. You just stare and stare and wonder about crazy stuff like aliens. Our pear trees are over twenty-five feet tall. So that outrules deer. The raccoon theory seems kinda plausible but it must have been an absolute swarm to fit four dozen big pears into their bellies and still be able to roll off the property by morning!
 
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I have had this happen to me,  it used to be a peach tree, this year it was a pear tree.
I also vote for raccoons.
Squirrels and birds dont finish the fruits they ruin.
The trees were too tall for deer to reach all the fruit.
Possum are incredibly slow moving, and dumb, not the most likely to execute a smooth heist.

 
pollinator
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A friend of mine had the problem of moose eating all the pears on her tree here in NH.  She would come home from work and the moose would be in between the driveway and the house enjoying the buffet.

The local birds get all my sweet cherries in a single night just before they are all ripe.  They seem to leave the sour pie cherries alone so I am planting more sour cherries.  
 
Cynthia Quilici
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I described this to a nurseryman the other day, and he said something similar had happened in his area, the reaction of the victim being to blame two-legged thieves. But the nurseryman's opinion was crows. That the crows work in groups and steal all the fruit. Not sure if this is true, but that's his opinion.
 
pollinator
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I vote human, someone who scouts the tree regularly, someone with one of those extend-a-pole fruit picker tools and/or a nimble tree climber is the most likely culprit. I base this on the overwhelmingly constant theme of the trees being picked clean. The lack of partially eaten fruit seems to make this "overnight vanishing" unlikely to be attributed to wildlife. Their discerning taste would have them toss fruit that was not perfectly ripe, when faced with such abundance. Humans would just grab the lot and deal with under/over ripe fruit later.

Most critters noses are hundreds if not thousands of times greater at scenting when fruit is optimal for instant consumption. Most of these same critters "remember" when and where the fruit party was LAST year and will happily avail themselves of the bounty on an annual basis. So yes, absolutely raccoons will clean out grapes, plums etc., but over many evening raids, over the course of a week or more...a flock of birds will clean out a cherry tree, but over many days, at least that is my experience.

The fact that the entire crop vanishes over a single night is the biggest "hmmmm" here. It is theoretically possible multiple species working in concert, with the ground critters (deer, skunk etc.) cleaning up what others (raccoon, possum, rodent) drop could strip a tree bare with no damage, but over a week, not a single night, and not without SOME evidence (partially eaten fruit, scat, claw/hoof marks...) betraying their presence.

Neither raccoon or possum would carry off/stock pile fruit; skunks, deer and other land based critters could not access the high stuff. Birds, such as crows would possibly carry fruit off, but I would think a mass onslaught would only happen in daylight and create quite a ruckus.

In my experience, raccoons, and birds are picky, and will discard fruit that is not at their desired level of ripeness, leaving plenty of evidence behind in the form of partially eaten fruit; and all that gorging is certain to lead to fecal deposits that would clearly show what they had been eating.

Sure the raccoon/possum/deer/bird/rodent leftovers may have have been cleaned up by other animals, but not to the point of zero trace/evidence, in a single night.

I do not think there is a single answer; each situation, although sounding identical, likely has different or a variety of thieves at work. But the biggest key is what if anything is left behind as debris - a raccoon sitting there may "look" guilty, but an absence of partially eaten fruit belies that assumption. For the most part, based on the descriptions noted in this thread, a very efficient human or group of humans is most likely the true culprit.

Assuming these trees do not have a handy structure nearby, I would be tempted to load the ground with dog, cow or horse feces to deter the humans AND create "track traps"!  I doubt in the dark they could avoid all the fresh shit and NOT leave footprints. Perhaps this would deter humans from nocturnal thievery? I would also post signs warning of newly installed security features designed to protect YOUR crops; perhaps the dog is automatically "released" when security measures are triggered?

A game cam would also work great (although to my mind not nearly as satisfying without the addition of one of these more diabolical options, just saying...), as would any sort of motion activated lights, alarms or water cannon/sprinkler.
 
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Location: Near Ponca Arkansas, Buffalo Headwaters
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Look...I don't want to ruffle feathers. 50 years of extremely rural homesteading has left me with a treasure trove of knowledge. We have, on occasion, run traplines and caught a myriad of coons, foxes, coyotes when the pelts were valuable. When necessary, my son and I are alpha predators over thousands of acres of Ozark woods. We have increased the wildlife on our 160 acres 1000% in 50 years.

You got coons. Though once, a huge swarm of migrating squirrels blasted through. I shot 28 from one spot in the woods. There were hundreds moving around. THEY could also do this.

I just lost 10 bushels of pears from 6 trees in a 24 hour rainy/foggy period. Here today, COMPLETELY gone tomorrow. TOTALLY gone.
We trapped 10'coons in the garden last year.....6 'possums......killed 30 squirrels ...... and removed 10 armadillos. 2 acres of organic garden and orchard. This is a constant battle. We have 8 wire, ALL electric, 10 KV, hi-tensile fencing and the coons roll right through. Bears circle the fence, as do coyotes and foxes. Bobcats jump it with ease as does the mountain lion.

Nearest neighbor is 1/2 mile away....... 30 miles to town. NO person did this.

Hey.... a little addendum : We once brought 8 bushels of peaches home to work up the next day. We parked them in the 'mud' room that has an outside door. The next day, after chores, we grabbed the peaches and headed to the kitchen. When I picked up the last box I drew a blank....mental wipe out..... it was empty except for  100 or so peach pits.
Carpenter ants had swarmed the bottom box and completely removed all the soft material from a bushel of peaches in less than 8 hours.
 
pollinator
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I’ve had this happen in two different locations. It was creepy but I suspect animas/birds also.  I suspected humans the first time since it was on town.  But once second time happened out at the farm I figured not

 
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Gosh, the birds will decimate cherries in short order whether they are ready or not. Grapes they f-up testing them, then they're gone.

A polite bear will leave all the lower branches stripped or hoover up ground fallen apples. We unfortunately have an ahole bear this year and it tore down the pluot and has been ripping down a different section of the fence. Jerk even gobbled up my pathetic melons.

My point being, critters can do a lot overnight quietly.
 
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