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Beware of that cute little bunny this winter

Protect your Plants, Protect your Investment !

Maureen Sexsmith-West ISA Certified Arborist, PR4600A

Lethbridge has an abundance of wildlife that use the habitat offered by urban landscapes. It is not uncommon to see deer, rabbits/hares, mice or voles in your yard. More recently, migration of other animals such as raccoons and porcupines into residential yards is becoming more common. They are looking for two things: food and shelter.

All these animals can cause significant damage to landscape plants over the winter months. They will feed on the twigs, bark, foliage and fruit. Another form of damage is breakage – particularly from deer who rub their antlers to remove the ‘felt’ from their antlers and during the rutting season when scents are left to mark territories. If you have a dog, you know that they can’t resist marking their territory. The next dog that comes along will cover the scent with their own – hence the cycle in perpetual. Deer will use both visual and scent marking.

Browsing / feeding can cause significant injuries since the damage is often irregular making it difficult for your tree or shrub to repair itself. You may not even be aware of the damage until the next growing season. It can result in death if the feeding pattern occurs around the entire stem or twig. This is called girdling. Once the flow of sap is completely severed, any portion of the plant above the damage will die. Most vulnerable are young, thinner barked plants – fruit trees are a real favourite. Junipers are also typically fed upon since they provide protection against potential predators such as cats, dogs or birds. The leaves on cedars are often targeted by Deer.

Damage can occur anywhere on the plant – depending on the species of animal.

Browsing damage on Juniper

Rabbit feeding

So what can you do?

  1. Utilize traps for both mice and voles

  2. Keep mulch away from the base of stems

  3. Pack snow down around trunks to deny voles a pathway under snow cover

  4. Install trunk guards in the fall and remove in the Spring. They can be made of hardware cloth, tree wraps or 18-24″ sections of weeping tile. The ideas is to deny access to bark. Make sure it is securely installed at the surface so that there are no gaps to crawl under.

  5. If you are planning on leaving trunk guards on year round, avoid installing them directly against the trunk or you may end up with fungal problems.

  6. Protect shrub beds by installing a temporary fence using chicken wire. Makre sure it is tight to the ground and there are no gaps to squeeze through.

  7. Protect cedars with a temporary fence – set away from the plant so deer cannot reach over top.

We would be pleased in assist you with identification, preventative services and restorative tree care. Contact us at 403 634-3062


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