Potatoes come from the Andes mountain range in South America, where they have been farmed by the mountain-dwelling natives for thousands of years. For the past several hundred years, potatoes have been a dietary staple of many cultures throughout the world, because they are easy to farm and very nutritious. However, humans aren't the only creatures that enjoy potatoes; several animal species also eat them.
Wild boars are covered in brown hair and can weigh up to 300 pounds. They were brought to North America from Europe in the 1500s, as a source of meat for explorers from Spain. In the 1900s, people brought more boars to North America to hunt for sport. Ironically, the wild boar is no longer a common food source, but it has become a pest, eating foods that native animals and people need. One of these is the potato. Wild boars also eat corn, acorns and small animals.
Field mice are small rodents that eat potatoes, apples, corn and nearly any other kind of food they can scavenge. Because they have remarkably strong digestive systems, they can eat rotting foods that would sicken people and most other animals. Field mice have many predators, including cats, owls, snakes and bears. These mice can reproduce very quickly. It only takes three weeks for a field mouse to reach adult size, and it can have a litter of babies each month.
Raccoons are another scavenger. They are a little larger than cats, with gray fur and white-and-black markings. Their striped tails and masklike face give them a very distinctive appearance. Because raccoons are nocturnal, you might never catch a glimpse of one as they raid your garden. Like mice and wild boars, they are regarded as pests by many people. Raccoons frequently get into trash cans, empty out bird feeders and tear up mulch in search of bugs. People use several strategies to deter raccoons from their yards, including streamers or pinwheels to frighten them away, or playing a radio near the garden.
White-tailed deer can jump 9 feet high and run up to 40 miles per hour. Their diets vary widely, depending on the food available at that time of the year. Nuts, such as hickory nuts and acorns, are highly preferred by deer, although this food can be scarce in the winter. Deer also enjoy eating apples and other kinds of fruit, as well as grasses and wildflowers. They have been known to get into crops of potatoes, wheat, beans and other farmed foods. During winter, deer have much less food available, and they might eat twigs and leaves with low nutritional value to survive.
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