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Protect trees and shrubs from rodents

October is a perfect time to protect your valuable trees and shrubs from the teeth of rabbits, mice, and voles. These rodents cause damage by feeding on twigs and bark, voles may also feed on roots. Severe feeding damage may cause permanent disfigurement or even plant death. 

A good way to protect the bark of trees is to place a tree guard made of quarter-inch hardware cloth or a plastic tree guard around the tree base. The guard should extend an inch below the soil surface as long as it does not damage any roots. The guard should extend 18-24 inches above the anticipated snow line. Guards should be checked throughout the winter to insure they are at the proper height. Hardware cloth can be left on year-round as long as it is larger than the trunk to allow for growth. Plastic guards should be removed in the spring.

Shrubs can be protected from rodents by placing a screen made of quarter-inch hardware cloth around the perimeter of the plant. Place hardware cloth the same as you would for a tree and support with fence posts if necessary. It is a good idea to check screens periodically for damage and to make sure no animals have entered the enclosed area. I want to stress, if using hardware cloth make sure openings are no larger than a quarter-inch. Three years ago, while out wrapping apple trees to protect against rodent damage, I ran out of quarter-inch hardware cloth so I used a wire mesh with one inch openings to wrap my remaining two trees. I was saddened the following spring when I checked the trees protected by the wire mesh only to find them girdled by rodents. I suspect the culprits were voles or mice. The trees protected by quarter-inch hardware cloth were fine.

Repellents may also be used to protect trees and shrubs. Generally, these products are applied directly to the plant or near the plant to be protected. Repellants work by making the plant undesirable through taste or smell. It is important to remember that the effectiveness of any repellant will depend on weather conditions, availability of palatable food, and the number of hungry rodents.

If rodents are a problem in your yard take some time this fall to protect your valuable trees and shrubs.



Randy Nelson
Extension Educator, Home Hort & Ag Production Systems
(218) 299-5020
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