Rabbit Damage

Trunks and low branches are vulnerable to rabbits

By: Sandy Feather 2012
Penn State Extension

Q. We have six-foot tall hemlocks along the back of our property.  The lower branches, two to five inches off the ground, have had some of the bark chewed off, leaving an exposed area.  I bought some Spectracide pruning seal (aerosol) and sprayed it on the chewed areas.  No further damage was noted where I sprayed but other branches were chewed. We have a number of rabbits that roam through our lawn area and leave many droppings and possibly eat flowers in the summer.  Deer also live in our area. Is there a humane way to control rabbits? Is the pruning seal the best product I can use to help the trees recover? Can you recommend a good deer repellent?

A. From your description, rabbits, rather than deer, have caused the damage to your hemlocks. Rabbits often strip the bark from lower branches of trees and shrubs in search of specific nutrients. Deer more often browse the tips of branches, removing them completely, rather than striping the bark. The pruning sealer probably discouraged further nibbling because the taste and/or smell was unappealing to the rabbits. 

However, we rarely recommend pruning sealer because it interferes with trees innate ability to heal damage from pruning cuts and animal damage. Despite the startling appearance of the damage, your hemlocks are able heal themselves from rabbit feeding.


Rabbit Repellent

There are a number of animal repellents that can help minimize animal damage, including Liquid Fence, Deer Away, Deer Scram, Plantskydd and many others. Some work because of the smell, while others work because of the taste. Many of these discourage rabbits as well as deer. Rotate among repellents to avoid the animals becoming habituated to them.


Fencing Rabbits Out

Fencing the hemlocks off for the winter is another effective means of protecting them. To protect them from deer, the fence would need to be eight feet tall. Woven wire fencing or heavy-duty deer netting are most effective. A two-foot tall fence of chicken wire or hardware cloth would effectively deter rabbits.


Deer Damage

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Holly Leafminer control measures


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