Friday, February 1, 2013

Shhh. Be very, very quiet......

Abelia mosanensis

I'm hunting wabbits.  The tweacherous twicksters are at it again.
It seems that there isn't a winter that passes in which we don't have some kind of "animal problem" in the garden.  After all, we do live in their backyard.  We do a fairly good job of protecting plants but the gardens are extensive and protecting everything just isn't possible.  There are always shrubs that are left exposed and vulnerable.  The Abelia is a delightful shrub that has the most intoxicatingly fragrant flowers in late spring, thus it is very valuable.  Surprisingly, it has not been significantly damaged by critters in the past.  It is usually left unprotected.  This year, the rabbits have discovered it.  The recent cold snaps have caused deer and rabbits to be a little more aggressive in their search for food and you can see signs of it all over the garden.  As gardeners, there should always be some level of damage that is "acceptable", but when the survival of a plant is at stake, action must be taken.

Many people complain about deer and the damage they cause but I've found that rabbits are far more destructive.  Deer usually browse around and cause some damage but rabbits can completely devour a small shrub or tree in a couple of nights or less.   Mortality is usually the result.  Some years it's snowshoe hares, but this year it's cottontails.  Rabbit damage is usually indicated but sharp, clean cuts in the stem oftentimes on an angle.  Also, round fecal pellets are almost always present.  When the population is on the high end of the cycle, damage can be extensive.

A trip to the secret stash of fencing out back in the woods is in order.  I always have extra on hand for just such an occasion.  It is the easiest and most fool-proof method of keeping critters off a plant.  It is 100% effective.

There.  That should keep them off of the Abelia for the remainder of the winter but there are many more unprotected plants in the garden and I would just feel better if the threat was eliminated.  By eliminated, I mean trapped and transplanted.  Lead poisoning and snares are only used as an absolute last resort.  So far this season, I've live trapped three cottontails and I'm pretty confident that that is all of them, however, the vacuum could easily be filled by a lone bunny.

A fresh blanket of snow will tell the story.  If there is any sign of additional negative activity, the trap will come back out and the hunt for wabbits will continue, as it always does.

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