Rabbits are often portrayed as cute, furry creatures in books and movies. In the real world, however, rabbits can be destructive pests in the home landscape. In winter, rabbits often browse on young trees and shrubs. If feeding damage is extensive, trees and shrubs can be completely destroyed.
Trees and Shrubs Susceptible to Damage
Trees and shrubs that are often damaged by rabbits in winter include crabapple, apple, pear, redbud, honey locust, serviceberry, burning bush or winged euonymus, flowering quince, barberry, roses, and raspberries. Small evergreens (especially pines) are also vulnerable. However, nearly all small trees and shrubs are susceptible to damage when food sources are scarce and rabbit populations are high.
Type of Damage
Rabbits feed on the tissue between the bark and the wood. If rabbits remove the tissue down to the wood and go completely around the tree's trunk, the damaged tree is effectively girdled. Girdling destroys the tree as it disrupts the downward flow of food from the tree's foliage to the root system. Rabbits damage shrubs by chewing off small branches and girdling large stems.
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