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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Control of wildlife pests

Wild rabbits invaded our garden area this year and ate 20 feet of bean plants and then ate all the leaves from my strawberry plants. What can I do next year to discourage the little creatures?


There is a helpful factsheet on rabbits from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Living with Wildlife website. Some of the recommended methods of control include exclusion fencing and barriers, noisemaking and scaring devices (if you have a dog, this will help!), and even planting plants that are mostly unappealing to rabbits. There is also information on live-trapping, but this is not ideal because "the animals typically become disoriented, which results in them getting hit by a car or eaten by a predator. If they remain in the new area, they may cause similar problems there, or transmit diseases to other animals in the area. If a place "in the wild" is perfect for rabbits, they are probably already there. It isn't fair to the animals already living there to release another competitor into their home range to the detriment of both of them."

Date 2017-09-27
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Control of wildlife pests, Thuja plicata

I have a medium size cedar in my yard. Squirrels have been stripping the bark off - it is reddish and seems to come off fairly easily in flexible strips a few to several inches long. I wonder if I should be concerned about this affecting the health of the tree and if so what I should do to protect it.


It is possible that the bark-stripping may cause lasting damage to your cedar tree. Here is a document on managing squirrel damage from the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands. Here is an excerpt:
"The location of bark damage on a tree varies among tree species and is probably related to the ease of bark removal and bark thickness, and hence to the growth characteristics of different species. Basal damage (within 1 m of the ground)is the most common type of damage in beech (Fagus sylvatica). Crown damage frequently occurs in the main canopy of oaks and many conifers, while stem damage usually occurs between the base and canopy in, for example, sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), beech, birch (Betula spp.), larch (Larix spp.), and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta). [...] Crown damage affects the growth and appearance of the tree; severe crown damage kills it. Damage to the base and stem is cumulative occurring over a number of years. Wounds tend to callous over, hiding the damage until the tree is felled. Trees girdled by excessive stem or basal damage will die."

There are various methods of discouraging squirrels, but nothing is a fail-safe approach. The book, Outwitting Critters, by Bill Adler, Jr. (HarperPerennial, 1992) suggests dried blood fertilizer, ultrasonic devices, or live-trapping with peanut butter and small fruit as bait.

Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife's website has a page which includes suggestions on how to protect trees from squirrels.

Date 2017-05-04
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Acer palmatum, Control of wildlife pests

The bark on a Coral Bark Maple is peeling away on one side of the trunk...about 1 1/2 to 2 feet long. The tree looks healthy otherwise. Cause? Anything to do?


Trees (maples and others) are attacked by various diseases and pests, but nothing that removes sections of bark on a trunk. Damage might be from larger pests such as raccoons, deer or squirrels. In the city, squirrels often strip bark from trees for their nests. You might want to:

1. Put chicken wire or other protective barrier around the tree. The tree will heal itself as long as the entire trunk is not girdled (that is when bark is stripped all the way around the trunk so moisture and nutrients can't flow).

2. Have an arborist look at the tree for an accurate diagnosis. To locate an arborist in your area, contact Plant Amnesty's referral service or call their Referral Service Coordinator at 206-783-9813 and leave the following information:

General Location (city or town)
Phone Numbers (work, home, cell)
Email (will get the quickest response!)

Date 2017-08-15
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Control of wildlife pests, Deer

How can I keep deer out of my garden? Something is eating my plants, and I think it's deer. Do they like dahlias? Those are my favorite, and they seem to be especially hard hit. They don't seem to like it when we water, so maybe we could do something with that?


Deer are very hard to repel. Information about managing deer around your home and garden is available at the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife site, Living with Wildlife. (There are no guaranteed or complete repellents. As the link above mentions, some of the repellents may be toxic to plants, and may not be effective for very long. Furthermore, some of the predator urine repellents may not be humanely produced.)

First, you should identify which plants are being eaten; rodents and rabbits make a clean cut, while deer leave a jagged edge. And, of course, the browse marks are higher up on the plants if deer are the culprits. Fortunately, most native plants can survive some browsing. Unfortunately, deer do eat dahlias.

Once you determine which plants the deer is eating, you can often protect just those plants with a 4-6 foot circular fence just around the base of the plant. If you are trying to protect a small vegetable garden, you might be able to fence and cover it (suspending netting or chicken wire from the tops of the fence posts) as well. Fencing material can be made of woven wire or rigid polypropylene mesh.

You might consider motion-sensitive sprinklers, lights, or a radio--you did say that water scared off the deer. Some people have used blinking lights with success, strung so that they cast many shadows.

Some home remedies will work some of the time, though none work all of the time. And, they all have to be replenished after a good rain or watering. Here are some anecdotal examples of things that have worked (taken from Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife biologist Russell Link's book, Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest, 1999):

  1. Keeping dogs near the plants (for instance, installing their run near the garden).
  2. Human hair, strong-smelling soap, or blood meal placed in stockings or cheesecloth bags and hung near the plants.
  3. Several old eggs blended in a gallon of water and placed in vented containers, hanging near the plants.

The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife's Living with Wildlife website includes Link's list of plants that are at least somewhat deer-resistant. There are lists from Oregon State University and the King County Native Plant Guide, too.

While you may have to put up with some damage, I hope the ideas above will give you some places to start.

Date 2018-03-01
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August 01 2017 12:36:01