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January 24, 2012
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Rabbits and voles living off foliage in winter

A reader wants to know if other people are experiencing plant damage by the over-abundance of rabbits and voles this winter season.

She says the lower branches of all her pine trees are being denuded and damaged and the shrubs are being stripped of their bark with whole branches being chewed off. Her vines have all been severed at ground level. She is worried that with all the damage her plants are sustaining that her landscape will be dismal in spring.

She asks "Short of encasing everything in my yard (and my plantings are extensive) in chicken wire, I was wondering what other people are doing to prevent damage?"

In west Washoe Valley, moles are ruining my lawn, but there is no evidence of voles and I haven't seen a rabbit in months.

So, I asked my horticulture colleagues if they were experiencing critter damage. Wendy Hanson, who lives in east Washoe Valley, exclaims, "I am inundated with rabbits and voles, but no moles."

She says clients have been coming in to the Cooperative Extension office in Gardnerville claiming intense vole damage.

She has also been having calls about voles in both the Reno and Carson offices. Hanson says, "Unfortunately my owls and hawks can't keep up. Last week a hawk did catch a rabbit in my driveway and the horned owls are keeping an eye on my pasture, but I still have problems."

Heidi Kratsch, in Reno, has seen mole damage in lawns.

Sue Donaldson, at the Mount Rose Highway, told me, "I have mole damage in my lawn from what appeared to be a single pass-through; however I have far fewer critters around this winter, which I'm attributing to the lack of drinking water for them. I have not seen a single rabbit in my lawn for months, whereas normally they would be dining on the lawn."

Excluding rabbits with fences (2-foot for cottontails, 3-foot for jackrabbits with the bottom buried 6 inches into the soil) is the most effective deterrent.

Hardware cloth cylinders will protect trunks.

Removing brush piles, debris and other cover makes an area less suitable for rabbits. Commercially available spray repellents may work. Complete extermination is not possible particularly on large lots. Dogs can help deter rabbits.

For voles, protect trunks of trees with hardware cloth cylinders. Trap them with mouse snap traps. Eliminate ground cover hiding places. There are poisons available; some have special requirements for use. The effectiveness of repellents is uncertain. For more information, visit Or call me at 887-2252 or e-mail

JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at or 887-2252.

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The Record Courier Updated Jan 24, 2012 06:24PM Published Jan 24, 2012 06:23PM Copyright 2012 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.