Garden pests: Identifying the culprits behind rabbit, deer, and vole damage

Nature is a wondrous and awe-inspiring phenomenon that never ceases to captivate our senses. However, amidst its undeniable beauty lies the potential for chaos when it comes to our carefully tended gardens.

While insects and wildlife undoubtedly have their own needs and must consume sustenance, it is understandable that we may become perturbed when they voraciously indulge in the offerings we have meticulously laid out.

Yet, it is crucial to remember that this is simply the natural order of things, and we ought to find solace in witnessing the mesmerizing sight of monarch butterfly caterpillars contentedly feasting on milkweed leaves or birds delighting in the succulent dogwood berries that adorn our yards.

Nevertheless, there are certain creatures that can pose a threat to our cherished plants – be it food crops, prized blossoms, expensive trees and shrubs, or even the meticulously manicured lawn – and it is essential to take appropriate measures to shield them from harm.

The first crucial step in this endeavor is to accurately identify the miscreant responsible for wreaking havoc in our garden sanctuaries.


Rabbit damage, a phenomenon that often goes unnoticed until its effects become glaringly apparent, manifests in the form of clean cuts on various plant parts such as stems, branches, flowers, and foliage.

This damage is typically observed near ground level, where the rabbits, driven by their insatiable appetite, nibble away with precision and finesse.

However, it is worth noting that during winter months, when snow mounds provide a convenient elevation for the rabbits, the damage may extend beyond ground level, reaching heights exceeding three feet.

This particular scenario poses a unique challenge as the damage may remain hidden until the arrival of spring, when the snow melts away, revealing the extent of the destruction caused by these seemingly innocent creatures.

Rabbits, those seemingly harmless creatures, possess a penchant for gnawing on tree bark, particularly during the bitter winter months in colder regions.

Their voracious appetites can swiftly ravage a vegetable patch, leaving little behind in their wake. In fact, their destructive tendencies are so swift that one might barely have time to utter the famous catchphrase, “What’s up, Doc?” Yet, these mischievous creatures do not simply satisfy their hunger; they also leave behind peculiar “gifts” in the form of round, dull brown pellets, reminiscent of peas in size.

To combat the onslaught of rabbits, various methods have been employed. Commercial repellents, as well as the use of blood meal, bone meal, or cayenne pepper, have shown some promise in deterring these furry pests.

However, it is crucial to note that these remedies require frequent reapplication, particularly after rainfall. For those seeking a more foolproof solution, the most effective deterrent involves the installation of a chicken-wire fence.

This fence, with mesh openings smaller than 1 inch, should be erected at a height of 30 to 36 inches. Additionally, to counteract the rabbits’ affinity for digging, it is advisable to bury the bottom of the fence approximately 8 inches deep into the soil.


When it comes to the topic of deer and their impact on plant life, it is important to note that these creatures have a distinct method of causing damage.

Unlike rabbits, deer have a tendency to tear at plant material, resulting in an uneven and jagged appearance on leaves.

Furthermore, their height grants them the ability to wreak havoc on plants and trees that are as high as 6 feet off the ground.

Additionally, the droppings left behind by deer are oblong, shiny, and possess a darker shade compared to those of rabbits.

While deer repellents can offer some degree of protection, the constant need for reapplication, particularly on large properties situated in areas with high deer populations, can render them cost-prohibitive.

Consequently, fencing emerges as the sole foolproof solution, but not just any fence will suffice. Given that deer possess the ability to jump as high as 6 feet, it becomes imperative to install an 8-foot barrier, a 6-foot fence that is outwardly angled at 45 degrees, or two fences that are 3 feet tall and placed 4 feet apart (as deer will be unable to scale both).

Another approach worth considering is the cultivation of deer-resistant plants. However, it is crucial to bear in mind that even plants labeled as deer-resistant can fall prey to a hungry deer, as these creatures have been known to consume anything when their hunger strikes.


Moles and voles are often mistaken for each other, but in reality, they are two distinct creatures. When considering moles, it is helpful to think of the “M” in their name as representing their diet as Meat-eaters.

These insectivores primarily consume worms, grubs, and other insects. Their extensive tunneling activities result in cone-shaped mounds of soil above ground.

However, it is important to note that moles are not responsible for damaging your lawn. They are present in a lawn solely because the soil beneath it provides them with a source of food.

If you notice dead or thinning patches of grass, it is actually due to grubs, not moles. Moles are solitary animals that spend the majority of their lives underground, out of sight.

On average, only two to three moles inhabit one square acre of land.

On the other hand, the “V” in voles can be associated with Vegetarian, as these rodents primarily feed on plant roots, grasses, seeds, spring bulbs, root vegetables, and the lower portions of trees and shrubs.

Voles are also known by other names such as meadow mice, ground moles, or field mice. They have a high reproductive rate, similar to rabbits, and can produce five to ten litters of three to six young per year.

Voles create golf ball-sized holes in the soil, which lead to long and narrow tunnels. They tend to infest cluttered properties, so one effective way to discourage voles is by removing plant and other debris that provide them with food and shelter.

Jessica Damiano is a highly acclaimed writer who has garnered numerous accolades for her exceptional work in the field of gardening.

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