Q. How can I protect my trees and shrubs from animal damage in the winter?
A. Rabbits, voles, and mice often chew on the bark of trees and shrubs during the winter months, damaging the inner cambium layer, and possibly leading to injury and even death of young plants. Damage can be prevented by wrapping plant trunks with fine mesh hardware cloth or wire fencing with holes less than ¼ inch in diameter. The material will need to be buried a couple of inches beneath the surface of the soil and can be as high as 4 feet to prevent rabbits from causing damage during winters with deep snow cover. Larger-diameter plastic corrugated cylinders can also be used by splitting them lengthwise and placing them around trunks. Repellents can also be used, but they are costly, need to be reapplied often, and are generally not as effective. Hawks and owls feed on rodents during the winter months so gardeners can hope there will be an abundance of these predators to keep rabbit, vole, and mice populations low.