Dealing With Animal Pests

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Plants offer shelter and food to a variety of wildlife in winter. Small rodents such as mice, voles, and rabbits, and larger animals such as deer, sometimes gnaw bark off trunks and roots, causing injury that allows disease organisms to invade. Worse, they may girdle the trunk and kill the shrub or tree. Keep the area clear of weeds and grass. Clear mulch away from shrub and tree bases in the fall until the ground freezes hard to deny rodents a nesting place. Wrap trunks with guards of 1/4 inch hardware cloth or use tree bark guards or tree shelters to repel smaller animals. Be sure they are high enough to protect bark if critters are standing on several feet of snow as they gnaw.
Deer require stronger measures. If they are only occasional visitors, spray vulnerable evergreen shrubs such as yews and rhododendrons with deer repellent or a repellent spray to make them smell or taste bad. Alternate products weekly, if necessary, to maintain effectiveness. To discourage starving deer or deer who habitually visit, surround vulnerable plants with some form of electric fence or enclose the entire property with unobtrusive black polynetting deer fencing to exclude them entirely.
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