Learned a Sad And Painful Lesson today

I have been at this a year now (not long but every year counts…), putting in a ton of work and just discovered a rabbit girdled 6 of my trees (out of 10 planted). I assume they are all not salvageable? Anything I can do?

Oh, also on my way to get hardware cloth now. I assumed I could avoid these issues with trunk guards and given that I live in a development, but apparently not. Any other pests secrets?


I would take cuttings and graft them onto the trunks in the spring.


Are you sure it was a rabbit? It looks like some of the damage is 3+ feet up. If it was a rabbit, it is the largest one ever or it learned to take a bite after hopping.

Some could depend on what type of tree it is and how much of the tree above the rootstock union is completely covered by the trunk guard. If it is apple, it would send out new buds (adventitious) . Others like peaches will not and you would need to graft, as Dennis suggests, assuming the tree is completely girdled and there isn’t a path up covered by bark.


Either bunnies or voles or both.

4’ hardware cloth or aluminum screen has provided 95%+ protection for me.

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Looks like jack rabbit damage instead of cottontail but you could just have big cottontail or unless you had heavy snowfall.
Living with the cottontail and growing fruit
Confirm the tracks using that link but judging by your screen name i think you know it was a rabbit. You can cut off where they girdled it and you will only be out the little bit of growth on top. The trees will come back just fine. It is harder to grow roots than tops. Dont leave the growth on the top any longer they are done for and it will kill the tree. My theory is it was cottontail you got heavy snow and he walked across the snow elevating his access above your rabbit guards.

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That was my thought as well. I have been diligent shoveling snow away, but the wind last night must have disregarded my efforts and so the rabbits had easier access.

I also dropped some rabbit/rodent repellent, which I doubt works well, but :man_shrugging:t3:

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Sorry to see that, I had the same thing happen to a couple medlar trees of mine a few years ago. Drifted snow was the problem in my case too.
The stuff above the girdling will put out green shoots in the spring, but it’s just stored energy from the bark, the top stuff will die once that runs out.
As mentioned, as long as you still have some non-girdled area above the graph, and it’s a species that will sprout from trunk buds, they will recover. Might not look as nice as they would have. But better than starting from square one I’d say.

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Are you sure it wasn’t a buck rub? Your third photo has damage very high for a rabbit…

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Once in the spring in my lower orchard i found an apple with 36" damage. Like you i thought how can that be a rabbit it must be deer. I was lucky and saw a few drifts left and they did the same to every elm. After that i learned to drop some lower stuff for them as hard as it was to feed my enemies. They are food if you need them. They love elm trees and i hate them worse than rabbits. The owls, coyotes. Bobcats, and hawks mostly control them now. The dogs help alot.


Not when there’s a couple feet of snow

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looks like porcupine damage. they can reach pretty high and like fruit tree bark. many a hunter has been fooled into thinking that’s a buck rub. they are fairly common here. the town of Madawaska near me means land of the porcupine in Micmac.


One word: Púcas.

I have not seen any porcupines around here (Minnesota), but they do pop up occasionally (albeit, rarely). In any event, I think I saw rabbits on my security system.


I was wondering about porcupine, too.
But… if snow was drifted up against/around these trees, rabbits could certainly have just walked on top of the snow and stripped the bark off much higher than they’d usually be able to reach.

I’m afraid most of those are gonna have to start over from below the girdling damage… either from latent buds, or by collecting and holding scions from the tops (which are likely to be ‘toast’) and re-grafting this spring.
Bridge grafting might be a possibility to employ in an attempt to salvage the tops - if they’re worth trying for - but if you’re only a year out… there may not be enough scaffolding there for the effort. Regrowth should be rapid… 10 years from now, you won’t even be able to tell this happened.

Glad we don’t have porkies here, and rarely get significant snowfalls.


I am trying to look at the silver lining: I get to start over somewhat. I got these trees when I THOUGHT I knew enough, but through reading books and frequenting this forum, I learned so much more and wished I had picked different rootstock and cultivars. So, I get a re-do so to speak (only after wasting hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours…:upside_down_face:).

Thinking of getting another Honeycrisp and then instead of the golden delicious, getting a Macoun. I was heavy on golden delicious sport with a Rubinette and Hooples coming next year (also getting a chestnut and Newtown), so I think this evens things out better.


All is not lost here! It looks like you have protected your trees to a certain level. They look like pomme fruit to me. They should sprout below the damage and grow very vigorously next year provided you have saved a least a little bit of the cultivar and likely will grow several feet.

I’m sorry to see your set back. :disappointed:I had the same thing happen to a Lavina Plum of mine this fall, due to rabbits. It does have one strip of bark left on the backside, however. I am going to bridge graft to bypass the damage come spring. That is what I would do in your case as well.

Mabey this link will help?


Sorry this happened to your trees. These critters can do some real damage really fast. All it takes is one day or two and the damage is done and the trees are damaged beyond saving.
Too bad you did not happen to have a trail cam up to see what critter(s) did this damage to your tree. I have one tree that has some strange damage to it. I have no idea what critter(s) did this to mine. I put up a trail cam up in case they came back. I had a two beavers in my pond that destroyed 4 of my apple trees and damaged one other one. It is the same apple tree the critters just damaged. If it makes it that will be a miracle. That would make it one tough tree to get attacked twice in the same year and survive.
That is a shame they ruined your trees.

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Plenty of porkie damage an hour or more north of the cities. Down by you, it would be highly unusual.