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Solve a Wildlife Problem

Wildlife Eating My Flowers or Landscaping

Gardeners know the joy of looking at a yard that has been newly planted with flowers, vegetables, ornamental grasses, shrubs, or trees. And nothing ruins that joy faster than coming outside to find that wildlife have nibbled on or even completely eaten your plants. It’s time-consuming and expensive to landscape your property. With that in mind, this page will help you identify which species is causing damage in your landscape so that you can better protect your plants.

Rabbits

Rabbits tend to make clean cuts when they browse on flowers and stems. The stems will often be clipped at a 45-degree angle and look like they have been cut with pruners. Damage is usually confined to lower than six inches above ground, but during periods of snow rabbits will climb snow drifts to feed higher on shrubs or tree sapling bark than they would normally be able to reach.

Photo: Dan Ludwig
This prairie clover was clipped by a rabbit. Note the smooth 45 degree angle of the cut stems which is typical of rodents and rabbits.
This prairie clover was clipped by a rabbit. Note the smooth 45-degree angle of the cut stems, which is typical of rodents and rabbits.

Rabbits will eat a wide variety of flowering plants, though favorites include tulips, lilies, beans, peas, beets, and the stems of roses, raspberries, and blackberries. Planting abundantly and fencing prized plants is the most effective deterrent against rabbit damage. Repellents can be effective in small areas if regularly reapplied.

Click HERE for more information about rabbit damage control methods.

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Voles

Voles damage plants both above and below ground. Above ground, voles tend to cause damage to plants at or near the base. The damage they cause is typically less than four to six inches above ground, but during periods of snow they are able to feed higher on shrubs and small trees.

Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden
These hostas were damaged by voles that ate away most of the root system.
These hostas were damaged by voles that ate away most of the root system.

Voles are well known for the runways they make in lawns, but they also damage plants by eating bulbs and tubers underground. Voles spend a majority of their time underground and will eat plant roots, which can cause a plant not to thrive or even to die. Hostas seem to be a favorite.

Click HERE for more information about vole damage control methods.

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Deer

Deer do not have front incisors, so they do not leave clean cuts on plants like rabbits do. In cases where deer don’t pull out or eat the entire plant, which happens a lot, what remains of the plant has a torn or shredded appearance. Deer can also stand on their hind legs to feed, so damage can extend up six to eight feet.

Photo: IDNR
During the winter, when food is scarce, deer will feed as high up as they can reach. There is a clear browse line on this hedge of yews.
When food is scarce, deer will feed as high up as they can reach. There is a clear browse line on this hedge of yews.

Click HERE for more information about deer damage control methods.

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Woodchuck

Woodchucks eat a variety of plants. Grass that has been clipped down or vegetables in the garden with chunks missing are both indicators that a woodchuck is nearby. Woodchucks do not forage too far from their burrows, so finding several large burrow holes on the property is the most obvious sign that you are dealing with a woodchuck.

Click HERE for more information about woodchuck damage control methods.

Photo: Adele Hodde, IDNR
Woodchuck feeding on a lawn. Woodchucks prefer open spaces so they can watch for predators while they graze.
Woodchucks prefer open spaces so they can watch for predators while they graze.

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