Lots of rabbit tracks in the snow show they’ve been very active this winter. It’s easy to ignore them until our shrubs and trees turn up dead in spring. Rabbits often work inside shrubbery, gnawing away the bark of branches and twigs near the base.
If branches are completely “girdled,” to use the gardening term, they’re often killed. When rabbits gnaw the bark at the base of evergreens like arborvitae, the shrubs can be permanently ruined. Deciduous (leafy) shrubs can often rebound from the base below the injury, but it requires a total cutback.
The surest way to prevent rabbit damage is to exclude them by circling susceptible plants with chicken wire, wire mesh hardware cloth or tightly-woven fencing. Remedies like mothballs, Irish Spring soap, fox urine, vodka, pepper and blood meal have widely mixed results, working well for some people in some situations, but not for others. Maybe rabbits have differing tastes.
Commercial repellents like Liquid Fence are more widely successful for rabbit and deer control, but they’re expensive. Here’s a homemade recipe using similar ingredients found in the expensive products: In a five gallon bucket, break a dozen eggs, discarding shells. Add two cups of milk and one container each of inexpensive garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Stir well to combine. Cover and let putrefy for up to a week. Add water to make five gallons. Stir in five tablespoons dish soap.
Using a watering can, apply liberally to bark, twigs and evergreen foliage of susceptible shrubs and trees. It’s certainly not fool-proof, but many of us have used this with success in summer also.
When we see rabbit tracks this time of year, it’s pretty important to check it out, and see if they’ve begun to cause damage. If steps are taken early enough, damage can be prevented, or kept to a minimum. Thumper and his pals can have lunch elsewhere.