Deer, Rabbits & Voles Oh My!

As winter gets closer, food sources become scarce and many animals turn to landscape plantings for food.  Evergreen needles, tender branch bark and young tree trunks all can become easy pickings for animals.  

Here are a few things to watch out for:

Deer damage is a common occurrence for trees during the winter months.   Deer will chew on a variety of different plants, but some of the worst damage happens to arborvitaes and yew bushes.   Deer generally chew on the ends of branches and will often chew them down to bare sticks, consuming whatever they can reach.  Generally most trees and shrubs do recover from deer damage slowly over time

Pictured on right is an example of how intense deer damage can be, despite how badly wounded the arborvitaes appear to be the majority of plants fully recover from deer damage.



Rabbits have been quite a problem on smaller shrubs or low hanging branches these last couple winters.  If they can reach the top, rabbit's will often chew many of the branch tips down to short stubs.  On taller plants, rabbits will chew bark of areas they can reach.  This damage can be severe and maybe even kill stems or entire plants if they girdling completely around them. 


This bush shown on the left doesn't have a chance.  Most of the stems have been chewed off completely and no nutrients or water will be able to move up into the plant come spring.



Voles are little mouse like critters, with fierce appetites.  In the winter months they burrow under snow mulch and ground covers and often feed at the base of trees.  Young trees with tender bark are most at risk.  We've seen most damage on younger crab apple trees, and fruit trees.  Keeping ground covers or excessive mulch away from trunks will take away protective hiding spots for voles.  Fencing can also be a great way to protect against damage.  Fencing should be pushed into the ground at least a few inches and ideally folded over at the base at a right angle few inches, to prevent them from digging under neath it.

Voles might look kind of cute, but don't be fooled. Voles can cause serious tree damage and even have the potential to kill a tree if they manage to compromise it's root system drastically enough. Precautions should be taken, in particular with young trees that haven't had time to establish themselves yet.


Every yard is different and animal pressure and protection methods may be unique for each situation.  Hoppe Tree Service does provide animal protection including fencing and repellent sprays.  Contact us for a review by one of our Certified Arborists. 

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