Help! rabbits (???) devouring shrubs

hammerl(z5-6 Amherst NY)February 14, 2009

I have a fenced backyard and have only seen rabbit prints this winter. To the best of my knowledge we do not get deer although they are several blocks away occasionally.

With the recent melt, I finally got to see my yard again, and was floored. My two large mature spirea bushes that are about 11 or 12 years old are decimated. One has three branches left on it, about 12" high, the other is eaten back on half the top and right side. The bushes were about 3' high, maybe 3.5 wide, full and lush. In past years the rabbits have just nibbled back the side by the patio which is OK.

They ate one of my 4' bonica roses to 2' high. The two others are part nibbled.

And out front, my Buck rose Hawkeye Belle has had several branches hard pruned.

Can this damage really be attributed to bunny rabbits? We're talking several feet of branches clean cut like with a clipper.

I know when we moved in we had some scary large rabbits I used to call our hares, that would reach almost 4' up to eat from the bird feeder. I hadn't seen them in a few years but perhaps they are back?

What else could it be? We have had the odd squirrel eat under the feeder, and there are squirrel prints out front under the maple tree. We had two rats and a few mice this fall and I went trapping and cleared out most of the rodents, and had no rodent tracks all winter. My neighbor down the street has seen a raccoon in her yard but I have seen no prints. We have a dog. Apparently our scottie isn't scary.

If it is rabbits I assume fencing may be the best way to go? Is it too late?

I know the rabbits climb our front porch steps, cross the porch and then jump off and run along the foundation of the house (no kidding, the prints are there every time it snows) so these are not your everyday little cottontails. They are definitely rabbit tracks.

Something also has chewed off and eaten or made off with my clematis vine. Only 1' of it is still tied to the lamppost (it can't climb it) about a foot off the ground (no longer rooted) and I usually don't cut this one back.

They have left other roses alone, including some vigorous Zephirine Drouhin and a large one I think may be Queen Elizabeth. They haven't touched my butterfly bush, nor have they eaten bark this year (last year they ate maple tree bark). They haven't eaten my lilac. Not sure about the many other roses or other plants that they were inhaling this summer like hydrangea limelight. So far my cutleaf lilac hasn't been munched. Mock orange lightly trimmed.

Any suggestions?

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Soinds like either rabbits or deer - do you have a cat or a dog? Our dog does a good job of keepping our yard clear of both. I have also read that if you get some kind of large animal waste - leopard, tiger, lion - & place strategically around your yard - that may help. Maybe from the Buff Zoo?

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 10:18PM
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It is rabbits. They were exceptionally bad this winter. They do prefer certain roses over others. When the snow is high, they will trim off shrubs like you had used hedge clippers. They are evil evil things!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 8:25AM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

Get a havaheart trap and use it. I had worse problems with rabbits this year than any other. I just discovered the damage last week when we had the thaw. They have eaten my tree peonies almost to the ground and I am heartsick. Evil %$#%$^*@!

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 8:41AM
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disneynut1977(5b, Sunset zone 42)

Well, I know do have rabbits, but haven't seen any damage yet. I did happen to find a rabbit head and front legs under my snow when it melted........I quickly walked my daughter up the driveway after school hoping she didn't see it. I think it might have been our local red male fox? I can't think of anything else off hand that would have done that.


    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 11:49AM
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