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Prevent Animal Damage During Winter Months

During harsh winters, food can become scarce, forcing animals to eat and potentially damage or destroy your trees, shrubs and evergreens. Here are some of the signs of damage to watch for and how you can protect your vulnerable plants from them.

Prevent animal damage to plants during winter months
Source: La Rosa Landscape

Voles and rabbits

Voles, or meadow mice, are voracious eaters that can squeeze through small openings and cause significant damage to small plants and trees. They’re particularly fond of bark, and can easily “girdle” the trunks of small trees. In other words, they chew off the bark around the circumference of the trunk, cutting off the flow of nutrients from the tree’s foliage to the root system. 

Rabbits can damage shrubs by chewing off small branches; they can also girdle large stems. Once a tree is girdled, there is little hope of saving it. Removing it and replacing it with a new tree may be your best option.

To prevent these small animals from destroying your vulnerable plants, place chicken wire or hardware cloth fencing around them. Another good option for small trees is to install a rigid tree collar around the trunk. It should allow air flow to moisture doesn’t build up around the trunk.

Rigid tree collar
Rigid tree collar

Keep in mind that rabbits can stand on their hind legs, extending their reach – especially if there’s snow on the ground. A 24-36 in. tall fence is recommended to prevent them from climbing or reaching over it. Anchor it to the soil with u-shaped anchor pins to prevent them from crawling under it.


Deer commonly feed on the foliage of arborvitae, yews, pines and other evergreens during the winter months. But they may also feed on other plants if food is scarce. 

In the fall, bucks rub their antlers on trees. This removes the dry velvet from their antlers and marks their territory. However, it also removes the thin layer of bark from trees, which can seriously damage or destroy them. Small trees with flexible trunks and thin, smooth bark are especially susceptible to damage.

Permanent or temporary fencing is the best deterrent to prevent deer damage to your plants. Woven wire and mesh fences are durable and flexible, and can be installed on a variety of terrain. 

Garden design can also help to discourage deer from feeding on your plants. Place highly desirable plants closer to your house and other areas of human activity. Place more deer-resistant plants around the perimeter of your garden. 

Finally, never feed deer. It’s an open invitation for them to also browse your trees, shrubs and plants.

Deer damage versus rabbit damage
Deer damage versus rabbit damage

Need help? LaRosa’s horticultural experts can evaluate and correct any animal damage your yard may have and help prevent it in the future. Contact us today to discuss your needs.