I have 2 navel orange trees that have always maintained a healthy productive yield of oranges every year here in North Florida ar the eastern Jacksonville area more specifically, Nassau county which is Callahan Florida.if looking at the map. This year, as a normal yeild was on it's way, about a month before prime picking time they started disappearing. They were disappearing randomly in no particular pattern or order and no specific depth or height of the tree and now I am down to about only 8 oranges between both trees. Well the easy answer would be a 2 legged pest however, I am in a very rural area and the only accessible ways to access this part of my property (by human access that is) is covered by trail cameras that have shown no people and of course there is access through the thick woods however I would without a question be able to tell if a human came through any other way. The cameras are not on the trees, just on the access point to that part of my property but the idea of it being a person is a very very far stretch. Otherwise, it looks as if they were picked just like anyone would pick an orange with the exception of it appears that the same limb the orange picked off of seems to have leaves missing a little further up the same branch (like you would put your fist around the leaves and pull them off). The other catch is, absolutely no sign of anything eating them right there. No peelings or anything on the ground at all that would be expected from an animal. I have raccoons, deer, domestic horses (horses do not have access to the trees), possums, foxes, coyotes and just about any other typical wildlife. As crazy as it is for me to ask, is there a wild animal that could be guilty of picking my oranges and taking off without leaving any evidence? Thanks for any input as I am lost.
I never encountered that (I live in the city) but here is my detective suggestion:
1- No clean cut: Animals don't use shears to cut the fruit, so you will see a jagged edge at the break area. Often, a small portion of the peel remains at the base.
2- No peels: Animals don't peel the fruits. They eat it whole. Some may take the fruit to their den to eat it. Small animals may avoid the peel because it is not to their taste. However, it is unlikely they will preoccupy with peeling it in the open, but rather drag the fruit to their den. Scan the area for peels discarded at the den entry. I don't know about raccoons and whether they eat all of the fruit or not...
3- Larger animals: Bears may break branch tips while attempting to pick the fruit. Deers will grab them with their mouth, pull and then chew them. They can reach higher branches with less damage that that of bears.
4- If you have a dog, watch how it responds to animals entering the property. This may offer a clue.
5- Animal footsteps: Can you identify them? Tracks/wheels: Definitely a human stealing your crops!
6- Time: Do they disappear at night, at some time in the day, or equally the same?
7- Poop: Animal leave their marks even around the area where they eat. This can also give identification of the animal...