When someone asks me, “what animals eat oranges?” I often think first of domesticated animals. Maybe they are wondering if their rabbit can have a citrus snack. Maybe they have an interest in zoology? However, most often the question comes from homeowners who are at their wit’s end dealing with animals stealing the oranges off their trees.
This is understandable – growing tasty oranges is a lot of work, and it feels terrible to not even be able to enjoy it. I’ll go over the most common culprits for orange eating in your average neighborhood, as well as a few pets and wild animals that may be to blame if you live somewhere unusual.
Common Neighborhood Animals That Eat Oranges
These animals are commonly found in suburbia and the city as well as the country. They show up in a variety of climates, and generally make a nuisance of themselves. For animals that do not regularly show up in populated areas, see wild animals.
Raccoons are common across North America and thrive in woods as well as populated areas. Sometimes nicknamed trash pandas, these animals enjoy eating just about anything they can get their little hands on. Raccoons are nocturnal, so if you have a mystery orange thief, leave a camera pointed at the tree overnight and see if your neighborhood raccoon makes an appearance.
Pop culture has taught us that these animals prefer nuts, and while they do, they also enjoy fruits and vegetables. Oranges attract squirrels because of their high sugar content. Because squirrels are great climbers, it is often a clue that your oranges are being eaten by squirrels if the highest ones are being targeted. Additionally, they tend to tear pieces off from a wide, shallow hole they make in the peel.
Like squirrels, birds are everywhere. Birds will eat just about any food available to them, although citrus isn’t usually their first choice. Favorites include grapes, seeds, and worms. When birds do go after oranges, they must get creative. Oranges are too large for most birds to carry off, so they eat them on the branch. They peck their way through the peel and into the center, taking bits from this narrow beak-sized hole. They then leave the orange still on the tree when they’ve had their fill, leaving it to rot.
Rats are a pest synonymous with human settlements, as rats thrive off the scavenger strategy. They build nests in warm places like inside trees, walls, and even furniture. Once they are in an area, they will eat almost any garbage or plant matter they can find. Oranges are a treat for rats, who have a notorious sweet tooth. Rats are not as good of climbers as squirrels, so they will often target fruit that falls from a tree or is near a platform like a fence or close to the trunk.
5. Slugs and Snails
Slugs and Snails threaten oranges just like they threaten all cultivated plants. Slugs and snails love to eat leaves, stems and fruit off orange trees which can not only reduce the fruit yield but also kill the tree in extreme cases. Because they are so slow, you will likely see them in the vicinity of the tree if they are the culprits.
Like squirrels, chipmunks often use orange trees as an easy food source during lean times. They too are great climbers and tend to eat from the top of the tree. It’s tricky to tell squirrel and chipmunk damage apart unless you can catch them doing it.
I almost put this one in the wild animal category, but armadillos do enjoy burrowing under houses during the wintertime. During the warmer months, they often vacate the premises but may do some damage to your garden either coming or going. Luckily, armadillos are small and bad at climbing, so they can rarely cause serious damage.
Wild Animals That Eat Oranges
These animals do not normally live in human settlements, but if you live in the countryside or near a wild area, they may wander into your yard occasionally.
8. Turtles and Tortoises
Some turtles and tortoises are carnivores, but the majority are either omnivorous or herbivorous. Species of turtles and tortoises that eat oranges include:
- Star Tortoises
- Leopard Tortoises
- Painted Turtle
- Box Turtle
- Yellow Bellied Slider
- Gopher Tortoises
- Desert Tortoises
Not only can these animals eat oranges, but they will seek them out with single-mindedness because of their sugar and Vitamin C content. Vitamin C is crucial for building bones, which is important for an animal with a large bone growth on its back.
Fish don’t steal oranges, since they are unable to take them from the tree, but if one falls into the water, they will be more than happy to eat it. Many species of fish will eat just about anything that ends up in the water.
No list of fruit-eating animals would be complete without monkeys. Even though they don’t generally steal from orchards in English-speaking parts of the world, they enjoy oranges very much. If you live in an area with a monkey population, you can expect them to try to steal oranges and other fruit with a surprising amount of cleverness.
Possums, like raccoons, often fly under the radar as potential eaters of oranges. They are nocturnal and very sneaky. Additionally, while they usually prefer forested areas, they sometimes wander into human settlements. Since they live all over North and South America, they frequently have access to fruit trees like oranges, which they happily eat.
Deer are frequently responsible for damage to orchards, gardens, and other plants. These herbivorous animals travel large distances through wild and sparsely populated areas searching for food. They will eat most plants, but food items like oranges are their favorite. Their height is a determining factor in their grazing habits, so if you notice a tree that’s missing all the fruit near the bottom you should suspect a deer.
Bears are omnivorous creatures that love fruits such as berries and citrus as well as meat. When you live in bear country, you should expect fruit trees to attract bears during the spring and fall, when food is scarcer. Depending on the type of bear, the entire crop can be at risk, since black bears are very accomplished climbers. Regardless, their size means that a bear can reach and eat many oranges.
Domestic Animals that Eat Oranges
As a nod to the people who are asking this question for reasons other than the well-being of their personal orange tree, here is a list of domestic animals which eat oranges.
Hamsters love fruit, although they shouldn’t eat too much of it. Oranges are no exception. A small piece of orange is a heavenly treat for a hamster.
Dogs may or may not like oranges, according to taste, but many pups will eat oranges when they are offered. While oranges should not be a staple in your dog’s diet, they are not toxic.
Rabbits are lovers of sweet fruit, even though overeating fruit is deadly for rabbits. While almost all of a rabbit’s diet should be things like hay and dandelion greens, most will go bonkers if offered the occasional orange.
Pigs, unsurprisingly, are happy to eat oranges. Pigs have very similar digestive systems to humans and can eat almost everything.
This may surprise you, but oranges are a key part of many horses’ diets. Horses are notoriously fragile and prone to injury, making supplements for strong bones crucial to their healthy development. Many horse breeders will give growing horses whole oranges to eat along with their other food.
Common Strategies Used to Discourage Animals from Eating Oranges
Unsurprisingly, there are almost as many ways people try to prevent animals from eating their oranges as there are potential citrus pests. Your local farming supply store will likely have strategies that work best for the pests native to your area, but here are some of the most common.
Netting Around the Tree
This works best against birds, snails, and slugs since many other animals are capable of circumventing or breaking the net. The idea here is to simply prevent the birds from landing on the tree, thereby preventing access to the oranges. Likewise, snails are too dumb to figure out a way in if the holes in the net are small enough. This isn’t an aesthetically pleasing solution, but it’s low-cost and reusable.
A Bag of Dog Hair
This method is typically used against squirrels, chipmunks, and rats. These animals are frequently preyed upon by dogs and cats and are frightened of them. As such, they will avoid any area that smells of dogs. The bag of hair will ensure this scent is constantly hanging around your tree, although it’s a bit weird to source, and will need to be replaced every couple of weeks.
Coyote or Wolf Urine
This works best on medium to large-sized mammals like deer, raccoons, and possums. Just like with the bag of dog hair, prey animals will avoid the smell of predators. This is easy to source, just about any farming supply store will have some. Unfortunately, the urine smells awful.
Many animals seek out oranges as a food source because they are high in sugar and vitamins. Because this fruit tree is such a big attraction for the local wildlife, getting a big orange crop can be tricky for the backyard gardener. These threats, along with those caused by weather, are why you see orange farmers on the news going to great lengths to prep their trees. Common defenses include dog hair, coyote urine, blankets, and netting.
Read my related article: What Animals Eat Bananas? (23 Examples with Pictures)
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.