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Where We Left Off:
The detectives and humans took a deep dive into analyzing the first segment of the NJ bear hunt and coverage of poachers in other states.
Who likes peanut butter mixed with seeds more: bears, opossums, raccoons, or deer? The Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency conducted an overnight experiment from October 19-20, 2023.
Black bears loved the bricks of birdseed we used to hang from the red maple tree in a wire cage for the squirrels and birds. With hunting season’s first segment being so devastating, we thought black bears might come running to any place that seemed safe. However, hunters are allowed to use bait, perhaps teaching the bears that an offering of free food is not to be trusted. Bears that eat from garbage bins can ingest non-food items and suffer digestive blockages. I’m sure you’ve seen my tirades about habitat loss before.
We also have seen white-tailed deer and Jersey devil-deer who take over the snack bars set up for the chipmunks and birds on the Big Rock and other snack bars. The deer love this kind of food too but probably prefer berries and corn.
Opossums need to keep up their strength as one of the smaller animals of the neighborhood. How filling can a tick be? They need to eat a tremendous amount of bugs to buff up, but are they opportunists who will also eat seeds?
Raccoons, often called trash pandas because of their thick fuzzy bodies who eat anything from garbage bins. The opportunity to partake in easily accessible food might make them defensive of the bounty if they find it first.
Will the largest animal be the one who finds the bait first? Would they share? That was the theory we were going with, but there were other questions too. Do chipmunks, squirrels, and birds come out at night if the opportunity for a lot of food is presented?
I consulted with Gus and Oliver about what to do with this large tub of roasted peanut butter powder that their Butler said he didn’t like. I didn’t want all that PB to go to waste and since it’s in powdered form, it keeps for a long time. The cats and I decided to try and make our own seed cakes. The one thing I didn’t want to mess with was gelatin which seems to be important if you want your seed cake to hold shape as the store-bought ones do. I wasn’t going to put our homemade seed cake into the feeder on the tree so there was no point in worrying if it kept its shape.
I took a large mixing bowl, the PB powder, the bird seeds and some water and mixed it up in no specific measurements. It was gooey enough that the PB was hydrated and there were enough seeds to make it more than a giant bowl of PB. I lined a smaller bowl with foil and dumped the mixture into that. I guess there’s really no point to that step if you’re going to do what I did and put the mixture onto the ground in a blob. Having it in foil made it a bit safer for carrying through the yard—no worries about dropping a nice mixing bowl.
We chose a spot about fifteen feet from trailcam2, the GardePro camera at the red maple tree. After that, all we had to do was wait until the next day to retrieve the memory card from the trailcam and see who came to eat the homemade birdseed and PB blob.
Who did show up?
Opossums, raccoons, and white-tailed deer (doe and bucks).
Who else didn’t show up?
As stated, no bears; also no squirrels, chipmunks, birds, or small animals. A rabbit creature showed up but had no interest in the birdseed blob. I was absolutely shocked that no black bears showed up!
Repeat the test:
Some day we will repeat it. Until then, if you’re in a place where it’s permissible and safe to do so, you can try this experiment yourself. This is actually the second time I’ve done this test. I made a seed cake in August 2022. I had put that one in the freezer for a little while (not overnight) to solidify it but I’m sure the summer temperature outside turned it into a blob in no time.
The results of this bird seed and peanut butter tasting were not what we expected exactly. We thought at least one black bear would show up and possibly eat the entire thing, but that’s not what happened. Overnight beginning on October 19, 2023 into the 20th, there were several species that showed up. Not all were interested in the meal. The foxes and rabbits, for example, were no interested. We had positive results with white-tailed deer, opossums, and raccoons.
Maybe it was a matter of timing for the other animals. We know that the bears love the store-bought bird bricks. We also know that the birds, chipmunks, squirrels, and smaller critters love the loose bird seeds and peanuts during the day.