Pumpkins, A Treat for Wildlife

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Pumpkins are importantThe Daily Quipple

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There are dozens of reasons why I love autumn, and pumpkins rank high on my list. I like everything pumpkin—pumpkin lattes, pumpkin cake, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice, pumpkin seeds . . . You get the idea. But I’m not the only one that loves this delicious squash, wildlife love it too! They know a good thing when they taste it.

Choosing the perfect pumpkin isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s like trying to choose that perfect Christmas tree, the one we can both agree on. My husband always goes for the mega pumpkins; and while I’m sure the wildlife would appreciate such a generous token, I go for the pumpkin I don’t have to transport in a wheelbarrow. While any size would do, I like medium-sized pumpkins; after all, I’m the one that has to carve them, and carry them through the woods.

A healthy pumpkin crop this year made it easy to find just the right ones. We came home with three. Setting up my carving station on an old picnic table, and as the leaves were falling from the trees, I set to work. I’ve been carving pumpkins for wildlife for years, and while spooky pumpkin faces would have been fun, I prefer to keep it simple. After carving, I scrape the underside of the cap cleaning away the seeds and stringy pulp, and put it back inside the pumpkin. Leftover pieces from the eyes and the mouths are chopped and put back inside. For the finishing touches, I trim the excess pulp from the eyes and mouths making them slightly larger so animals, such as raccoons, can fit their hands through the openings for the goop.

That night, the pumpkins were a big hit. First on scene were the raccoons who could hardly wait to get their hands on, or rather, in them. It was especially fun watching the baby raccoons, since they had never experienced anything like it, and had the time of their lives! The resident opossum also joined the feast. By morning, most of the seeds and stringy pulp were gone. What was left was devoured by birds, chipmunks, and squirrels, and later, slugs and snails. Nothing is wasted. By days end, the pumpkins were completely cleaned. I couldn’t have done better myself. Once cleaned I use them for feeders. I used to fill them with birdseed until it started attracting bears. Now, I just put cookies inside, which the raccoons love to find.

I have to laugh though. I put two pumpkins in the backyard, and one in the front. The two in the back didn’t last long. They were rolled around, and chomped on, and lay in pieces. Usually, they last longer, but this year’s raccoons are a wild bunch that love to party—bless their little hearts. As for the front yard pumpkin, the raccoons cleaned it with meticulous care. Every strand of pulp, and every seed was gone yet, strangely, the pumpkin wasn’t disturbed in the slightest. I’m still wondering how they did it.

Steller’s jay gathers seeds
Steller’s jay gathers seeds
Steller’s jays love pumpkin seeds
Steller’s jays love pumpkin seeds
After the party
After the party
Lily Raccoon joins the pumpkin party
Lily Raccoon joins the pumpkin party

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