Seeking advice on girdled tree


Well, I can’t say for sure about this. I’m a KS/MO boy and I feel pretty confident about things in my area, but not so when it’s beyond a good day’s drive.

In general I’d say it’s voles. Rabbits (here) tend to eat bark a little higher up. They are taller animals after all. Most rabbit damage I’ve seen is higher than voles. I’m sure there are exceptions, but that’s my experience.

Vole tracks are fairly easy to identify. They have trails along the surface. The trails are about a couple inches wide and devoid of grass. When you see those, you can be sure those are voles.

Look for those in the fall. If you see them, they will be all over if you do nothing, and they will eat the bark of young trees, killing lots of them.

They are sort of like borers. Not a big issue and easy to mitigate, if you are watching for them. But if you get a little sanguine, they will remind you they are a very competitive neighbor.


I do too. Works well.


When my snow level gets down to about two inches or less you can see trails of tunnels all across the yard for acers. They crisscross and go everywhere. I always thought they were from mice because we have a lot of those too. I wonder now if these are from voles. We have owls and coyotes eating them. I see their pellets and scat. The coyotes eat a lot of rabbits too. As a six year orchardist I’m finding that it just keeps on getting harder every year to get fruit! I’m beginning to feel like I need an army to protect my trees, lol! I need to go look behind my guards. I want to see if my Nadia got eatten too. Pluss my six year old trees or seven actually.


Like this?

Image from Purdue website:


Just like that but only with the snow. They don’t take the grass out. My grass isn’t thick so maybe that’s why, or maybe it’s mice? They do most of the back yard like that. I just researched the snow trails and they say they are voles.
I checked my protected Nadia and it appears to be okay at the trunk. If I can remember I’ll try and take pictures of the vole trails in the snow. I’m not sure if I have ever seen them close to my fruit trees but I wasn’t worried til now about them. I might still have rabbit damage or both. some are debarked to the roots and some are girdled starting a few inches up. The above picture is off the net. I just got a new coat of eight inches of snow Thursday so is too deep now.


You’re forgetting snakes love eating mice/voles. So think twice before killing a non poisonous snake.


Very true. I never kill snakes (I’ve only seen one poisonous snake in the wild, so those type are pretty rare here.)

A long time ago a friend owned a boa, and got me over any fear of snakes. I’ve probably been bitten a dozen times picking up non-poisonous snakes. Their bite isn’t even as bad as a cat scratch, so I personally don’t see any reason to kill a non-poisonous snake.

Supposedly some non-poisonous snakes have harmful bacteria in their mouth, like dogs, but most of the time their bite doesn’t even break the skin. Most of the time, they don’t even bite. They’re pretty harmless creatures.


The last non-poisonous one I killed was in my mailbox…and the mail lady said there’d be no more mail until the snake was history! But, it is copperheads I worry about…the others don’t bother me much.


I feel very badly for you. I have vole damage to 15 of my fruit trees. (Picture of one here). 13 were apples and 2 were pears. About 11 are completely girdled. Some with quite a large diameter. First time in 4 years. I’m going to try bridge grafting.

A book was recommended to someone else in the same position - The Grafter’s Handbook by R.J. Garner. ISBN# 9781844030392. I ordered it on Thriftbooks used but it’s on Amazon, too.

This very cold winter we had in Maine must have brought them out in full force. It’s heartbreaking for us to lose trees we invested so much in.


I’m sorry for your losses. It’s stomach wrenching. I haven’t checked all the ones that I have guards on yet but they got six of mine that I didn’t guard. You must feel twice as bad as me.


Before snow flies, get some wax based bait blocks for mice close to the trunk. These have almost eliminated vole damage around my trees.


It is stomach wrenching. I’ll keep you posted on my luck with bridge grafting. Good luck!


Chikn: We have free range chickens and so we worried about putting poison out that they could get into. I did find some Tom Cat traps that have 2 holes and the voles have to go inside to get the wax based bait. Literally just put them out on Sunday. Do you have experience with those?


I saved scionwood so I can cut the trees off and graft to the stumps. They should grow fast if they take.


Sounds like a plan. Good luck and I’ll still let you know about the bridge grafting.


I have taken the precaution of taking scions from my own trees and swapping them with scions from other trees I own…so A has B on it and B has A on it and with my ‘wild’ trees that have A and B on them. Ya never know when ya might need a copy.


I have chikns too. All my trees have a chikn wire wrap to keep rabbits out and the bait blocks go in there.


I always save what I cut off from trimming my new trees so I have back ups but I couldn’t get Candy Heart to grow on plums. It might just be my tree it didn’t even want to grow afterwards. I saw that they are putting it on I want to say apricot stock but I would have to check again. It’s also being sold with a hybrid Myrobion and something else I believe. That’s why I asked earlier when I found out it was girdled what rootstock it is on. I was told it will graft to any plum but I’m not sure that it’s that easy with this one.


I’m just looking into grafting with plums, cherry plums, Asian and Euro plums, American plums…I still don’t really know what to think. I get the impression that just about anything will graft to a pluot. I’m hoping that whatever I do will keep the scion alive until I learn something. I have a couple plum scions and a P. americana rootstock here or on the way. I have a Satsuma, a Toka, and a Flavor Supreme growing. I’m trying to figure out if I need another rootstock…dang. Good luck with yours.


Well, I hate to reply to this thread, but I now have experienced the angst of tree girdling. I only noticed today, because I don’t think I’ve looked after my trees the last couple days.

These two were the Suncrisp and Macoun apples. Both had their bark exposed because I had pull the wire cages open a bit to let them spread out. The SC had another cage that had been covering the opening, but it had either blown down the hill or was pushed off.

I suspect rabbits as I have seen them in the area at night. I don’t think it’s vole damage as they aren’t prevalent here, and they could have easily crawled through the 1x 2" openings in the fencing.

There were also two other apple, three pear and one peach tree that had exposed lower trunks that weren’t damaged, so I put some corrugated plastic tubes on them today. All my other trees are behind caging.

Here are some pics of the Macoun. It looks bad but it is not totally girdled. The last pic shows the undamaged area along the rootstock and lower scion. I’m guessing it has about 40-45% good bark left. The stuff growing off the rootstock is burr knots.

Here is the Suncrisp, quite the gruesome sight. It looks like it’s totally girdled except for a small sliver of good bark.

Is the Macoun toast or does it have enough bark to survive? It was planted three years ago.

The Suncrisp looks like a goner, but could it maybe be saved with some bridge grafting? It has enough scion wood up top for the grafts, but was wondering if it’s possible or worth it. It was planted two years ago.

Ironically last year I did a three bench grafts and one of them was a Suncrisp, so if this one can’t be saved, the newer one can replace it, but it will probably be 4 years before it’s producing. This damaged tree maybe would’ve been producing next year.

If I can do bridge grafts when would be the best time to do it? And what should I do with the damage now? Seal it off with something?

This is so aggravating as my main pest was and is deer, so while I’ve kept them at bay with the fencing, I totally disregarded the freaking rabbits. I have some blackberry cane damage down low and assumed it was deer but now suspect rabbits.