Animals? Neighbors? Ghosts?
November 3, 2017 7:30 AM   Subscribe

I'm weirded out by a pumpkin that came and went from my front porch. Should I be?

I live in a townhouse, row of four, part of a larger development of similar rows of townhouses. Medium sized midwestern university town. Neighborhood is mostly students and immigrants. It's quiet, safe.

Each townhouse is set up on a small hill, with a set of stairs leading up to a small front porch sort of thing, with a fence/railing type thing around the porch. Yesterday when I left my house for work I noticed that a small (softball sized) pumpkin had been placed on top of the fence, on the edge, at the top of my stairs. It looked like someone must have walked up the stairs and placed it here. There was a good chunk missing from the pumpkin, appearing like maybe some squirrels got into it (we have lots of squirrels, raccoons, possums, and the occasional outdoor cat). I thought it was kind of weird. It was there all day and was still there when I went to be last night.

This morning when I left for work it was gone. There didn't appear to be any signs that animals had eaten the rest or anything. It looked like it was removed.

Is there a meaning behind this? An easy explanation? Is this something I should be concerned about? Or have I just been listening to too many true crime podcasts? I don't know what I'm worried about -that it's a sign, or that someone is fucking with me or something.
posted by Lutoslawski to Grab Bag (11 answers total)
I don't think you have anything to worry about. Post-Halloween pumpkins come and go either for pranks, disposal, squirrel-related theft, or just laziness. It's just a chewed on pumpkin, you're fine.
posted by lydhre at 7:34 AM on November 3, 2017 [15 favorites]

Where I live, pumpkin shenanigans at Hallowe'en are signs of nothing but teenagers being silly. I am grateful they're just being silly with pumpkins instead of doing actually bad things, and I would think nothing more of it.
posted by MangoNews at 7:34 AM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

I regularly find strange objects on and around my porch. Usually walnuts, but once I found a whole piece of toast wedged in my front door. Squirrels are weird.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:37 AM on November 3, 2017 [23 favorites]

Is your townhouse association really picky about appearances? Could a neighbor have seen that the pumpkin was chewed on and removed it? Some home owner associations are picky about decorations left over the holiday.

Either way, I don't think you have anything to worry about.
posted by shortyJBot at 7:44 AM on November 3, 2017

The scenario I envision is that someone was strolling along and spotted an animal-nibbled mini-pumpkin on the sidewalk, and set it up somewhere where it seemed most likely to have come from. That night, animals return and make off with it again.
posted by drlith at 8:13 AM on November 3, 2017 [11 favorites]

Suburban and city squirrels are huge and crazy strong this time of year, and I often see them running along my fence carrying a large piece of food they grabbed from the trash. I would bet on a squirrel dragging it up there for a snack, leaving it, and then another animal (or squirrel) found it and knocked it down, then ate the rest of it.

This year my husband prematurely set out two cantaloupe-sized pumpkins on our front steps. In a day, they were both partially eaten and one was dragged halfway down our sidewalk. The next day, they had disappeared completely.
posted by castlebravo at 8:55 AM on November 3, 2017 [7 favorites]

Either what drlith said, or the rightful owner spotted and reclaimed their pumpkin.

Having said that, pumpkins are known for their inability to distinguish objects such as doorways and porches, they don't really have a sense of what their home porch looks like, they're only aware of a door opening into an indoor space with people who go through it. They don't distinguish their own people from neighbours very much either. And on Halloween, with streams of people coming and going to and from a door, you can see how they can get confused.

My guess is that this pumpkin wandered off its own porch, got disoriented, and found its way back to your porch with no clear understanding that it was in the wrong place. Most likely it has been helped to get back home safely, but as you know they have a very short lifespan and it would probably not have survived much beyond today, even under the best of conditions.
posted by tel3path at 8:56 AM on November 3, 2017 [55 favorites]

Raccoons nabbed a pumpkin, ate some of it on your porch before being startled away by whatever, slept all day like the nocturnal critters they are, then came back to get it in the wee hours. If it had been an untouched pumpkin or a pristine carved one then yeah, maybe some harmless weirdness, but if animals had been at it at all it’s safe to say it was brought there and then retrieved by critters, not people trying to prank or mess with you.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 11:39 AM on November 3, 2017

If it wasn't magpies. Once, our rather elaborately toothy pumpkin (I put all my artistry into the canines) was made entirely toothless within minutes by a gang of magpies who didn't appreciate the scary look. Then they just left, mission accomplished.
But...Maybe yours don't even like the basic pumpkin shape any more...

Or...there's not a cliff nearby? During my time in Ithaca, one of the things I enjoyed watching was people gleefully throwing elderly pumpkins into the Cascadilla gorge. What a mess, too.
posted by Namlit at 1:13 PM on November 3, 2017

My guess is that this pumpkin wandered off its own porch, got disoriented, and found its way back to your porch with no clear understanding that it was in the wrong place.

The fact that it was still out and about in the daytime suggests that it might have been blind.

Sarcoptic mange is a nasty disease that predominantly affects the Fine-Ribbed Pumpkin throughout its range. Sadly, the condition has also recently been found in Midwestern Hairy-Stemmed Pumpkin populations in Iowa and Missouri, however there is no record of the Northern Hairy-Stemmed Squash being affected.

Contrary to popular belief, the spread of mange is not entirely due to pumpkins - the introduced potato and feral beets are also hosts for mange and contribute to mange dispersal. It is considered that the potato may have initially brought the mite that causes the disease to the US.

The mite is called Sarcoptes scabiei and has many different sub-species that affect a number of different hosts. Although Sarcoptes scabiei is transferable between different hosts - including humans - it is usually host specific and therefore is self limiting. The mite that affects pumpkins - often fatally - is called Sarcoptes scabiei var cucurbiti.

Sarcoptic mites first mate on the skin of the pumpkin and the male dies not long after. The female mites then burrow under the skin of the pumpkin leaving a network of tunnels in the flesh where eggs are laid; the female then dies at the end of a tunnel. The mite eggs are nurtured via the pumpkin's sap serum and hatch into larvae three to eight days later.

Larvae then moult into nymphs - and nymphs into adults. During this cycle the mite feeds off the pumpkin's sappy juices which is the main contributor to the debilitation of the pumpkin. Once the nymphs have turned into adults they make their way back to the surface of the skin - creating more tunnels - where they mate and the cycle starts again. The life cycle of the mite is approximately two to three weeks.

Sarcoptic mange is a severe disease and affects the host in several ways. The irritation caused by the mite burrowing under the skin causes the pumpkin to roll and rub incessantly which in itself causes often irreparable damage to the skin including mutilation and wax loss. From the constant scratching, skin layers are taken off and raw flesh is exposed. The sap serum seeps through the mites' tunnels to the exposed flesh creating wounds and scabs. Ulcers and deep lesions develop which then cause secondary infection and blow fly strike.

Other visible symptoms of this disease are skin thickening and crusting over the body, including the stem and rib areas causing blindness and deafness. The pumpkin becomes too weak to search for its home door, and malnutrition and dehydration occur. The immune system becomes depleted and the pumpkin looks emaciated.

In advanced stages sarcoptic mange also has a devastating effect on internal organs, including the seeds, pulp, fibres, candle cavities and reproductive organs. Respiratory infections and pneumonia can deplete the pumpkin further.

Left without treatment, a pumpkin with sarcoptic mange will die and death is slow and painful.

So you might want to consider getting your porch fumigated; it would be a shame to miss out on a procession of healthy pumpkins next year.
posted by flabdablet at 7:11 AM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

flabdablet i'm upset now
posted by tel3path at 3:35 PM on November 16, 2017

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