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Damage to Trees & Shrubs

Damage to trees and shrubs caused by mammals and birds is fairly easy to identify. Here is a short list of species that tend to do the most damage to trees. Click HERE for more photos of tree damage.

Woodpeckers

Woodpeckers drill several different types of holes in trees. Small holes are made while they are drumming to attract mates or alert other woodpeckers that they have claimed this territory. Larger holes are made so that they can excavate a small cavity within the tree to provide a roost during the colder months or a nest during the spring or summer. Holes with a vertical or horizontal pattern are made while the woodpeckers are foraging for insects under the bark.

Click HERE for woodpecker information and select the Damage Prevention and Control Methods tab.

Photo: Willowbrook Wildlife Center
Yellow-bellied sapsuckers drill rows of holes in trees. They come back to favorite trees. Notice the freshly drilled holes below a row of older holes.
Yellow-bellied sapsuckers drill rows of holes in trees. They come back to favorite trees. Notice the freshly drilled holes below a row of older holes.

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Beavers

There is no mistaking beaver damage. Since they eat wood and use trees to build their dams, they need to take down several trees to survive.

Click HERE for beaver information and select the Damage Prevention and Control Methods tab.

Photo: Laura Kammin
Close up of a tree with beaver damage. Teeth marks are clearly visible.
Close up of a tree with beaver damage. Teeth marks are clearly visible.

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Deer

Deer can damage trees when they repeatedly rub their antlers on them. They will also browse young saplings during the growing season and strip bark from trees during harsh winters when other food is unavailable.

Click HERE for deer information and select the Damage Prevention and Control Methods tab.

Photo: IDNR
Deer have used this tree as a rub so many times the bark is totally stripped off and the wood underneath is shredded.
Deer have used this tree as a rub so many times the bark is totally stripped off and the wood underneath is shredded.

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Rabbits

Rabbits will clip twigs or chew bark from young trees. The damage they cause is limited to their reach. During warmer months, the damage is confined to less than six inches above ground, but during snow cover they will climb snow drifts to feed higher. Because rabbits are larger, they can cut deeper into the bark than a vole.

Click HERE for rabbit information and select the Damage Prevention and Control Methods tab.

Photo: Laura Kammin
This small dogwood sapling was damaged by a rabbit during a period of snow in the winter. Rabbits will eat bark from trees and shrubs during the winter if they cannot find other food.
This small dogwood sapling was damaged by a rabbit during a period of snow in the winter. Rabbits will eat bark from trees and shrubs during the winter if they cannot find other food.

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Voles

Like rabbits, voles will eat small twigs and bark close to the base of the tree. Since they are so small, they cannot scrape off much bark at one time. However, prolonged feeding at the base of a young tree can girdle and kill it.

Click HERE for vole information and select the Damage Prevention and Control Methods tab.

Photo: Terry Kem
Voles often eat the bark from shrubs during the winter when food becomes harder to find under snow cover.
Voles often eat the bark from shrubs during the winter when food becomes harder to find under snow cover.

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