Pest of the Month: Rabbits

Pest of the Month: Rabbits

While they may be adorable, fluffy creatures that you wouldn’t associate with excessive tree damage, rabbits can actually cause some problems in your landscaping.

Here are the details on what these animals can do to your smaller trees and shrubs, and how you can handle and prevent the damage.

Potential Tree Damage From Rabbits

Wood Tree Bark English Oak 1761 (1)

So what damage can rabbits truly cause to shrubs and smaller trees?

Both jackrabbits and cottontail rabbits can cause damage to trees and shrubs by clipping away the buds, bark, stems, and small branches.

They can also girdle larger trees as well. Girdling a tree, which is also referred to as ring-barking, is the complete removal of a circle of bark around a tree trunk, branch, or woody plant. It eventually results in the death of the entire area above the girdle.

The damage will typically occur primarily during the fall and winter, and even more so when snow is present.

Young trees have the potential to suffer more, as their bark is thinner and smoother. With age the bark becomes rougher and thicker, making it more difficult for rabbits to remove it.

The preferred trees of these pests include:

  • Apple
  • Baldcypress
  • Cherry
  • Maple
  • Plum
  • Pine

It’s also important to note that your evergreen trees and plants will not be able to resprout from their base. If they are nipped off below their lowest branch, they are not able to recover and need to be completely replaced.

Keeping Your Trees Safe

Photo Of Black Rabbit 1228439 (1)

So, what are you able to do to prevent damage to your trees? What can you do if the damage is already done?

Preventing Rabbit Damage

There are a few different ways to prevent the damage before it happens.

One option is a two-foot-tall, 1-inch mesh fence made of galvanized poultry wire. Having one of these secured to the ground or even burying them a few inches into the ground will stop cottontail rabbits from hurting trees and plants.

You can also use tree protectors, which are an excellent option for long-term solutions. There are many different options on the market – you are able to purchase (or make them) with tin foil, plastic, paper, and wire depending on your preference. These should be tall enough to protect trees between twelve to eighteen inches above any expected snow.

Also, consider habitat alteration. This involves removing weed patches, brush piles, piles of debris, and other dense covers around trees and plants where rabbits are able to live and hide. Rabbits will typically avoid open areas because of predators, so damage can be significantly reduced by weeding and mowing around the area regularly.

Lastly, removing the rabbits is an option. You can do this by trapping them or even hunting them.

Recovering From Rabbit Damage

If your trees and shrubs have already been damaged by rabbits, there may be some ways to help them recover.

For shrubs:

  • Apply repellents
  • Prune damaged stems down to fresh bark (if there is any)
  • Check for healthy bark under the chewed up area
  • Wait patiently for new growth

For trees:

Trees will have a hard time recovering, and some may not bounce back at all. The amount of bark missing around the circumference around the tree will be a good sign of how likely it is to survive. A tree that only has damage around a quarter of the tree is much more likely to survive than one with damage around the entire tree.

You can wait and see how the tree reacts to the damage, but hiring a professional arborist is a much quicker way to get an answer. Trees that won’t survive should be removed as soon as possible.

If you have further questions about protecting your trees from rabbits, other pests and how to control them, or general tree care, reach out to Arborist Now today for more information!


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