Something strange is happening--not that I am against it. But would appreciate other gardeners/or biologists take on this.
I live in the Great Southern Piedmont, Zone 8 (formerly Zone 7B) and garden in-town. Lucky me, I've got a nice-sized back yard and grow tomatoes, culinary herbs, greens, asparagus, potatoes, beans, squash, small fruit, etc.
Over the years, the Eastern gray squirrel has been my main problem. These rascals bite into green fruit and green tomatoes, then toss them aside. They chomp on squash and beans, and there seems to be no way to deter them. Whenever I was outside I saw squirrels running along the fence, climbing my neighbor's oak tree, etc.
This Spring season, suddenly, I am seeing very few live squirrels (and no dead ones). For the past couple of years the grey squirrels, with no effective predators in-town, have become more red. I am assuming this is natural selection and the courting squirrel says to himself/herself "oh look, a redhead--I am in love." The gray squirrels around here are now mostly as red/blonde as the Western fox squirrel. Maybe now the squirrels are more noticeable to predators--but what predators?
This year I am harvesting plums. In the past, the squirrels got them all.
What do you think is happening? I have seen only the usual occasional hawk. I was thinking maybe owls, but haven't heard any. If something was poisoning the squirrels I believe I would have seen some corpses.
All speculation welcome, please.