Watch out for “critter damage” during the winter when snow is on the ground.
Winter is often the season when critter damage happens and you may not know about it until spring.
When there is snow cover on the ground, small critters like mice, voles, rabbits and other chewing rodents attack trees when they can’t find other ready sources of food. Mice and voles will actually burrow under the snow, grass, and mulch where you can’t see them, and girdle young, tender fruit trees. If the snow is deeper than normal, rabbits who can’t locate their normal food sources will often work on the trunks of trees. If the snow is really deep critters will start chewing the bark off the higher limbs. Growers have told Grandpa that they have found damage as high as half way up apple trees in places where the snow has drifted.
Make sure to have your spiral wraps or other guards abound the trunks of trees for protection. If you don’t have spiral wraps, or the trunks are larger than the wraps, then many people will cut lengths of “corrugated” plastic tile, split it up one side, and then fit it around trunks. This works great and can be left on for several years if need be.
Deer are also a big problem. If their food sources become scarce, they will browse trees and eat the tender buds off, just like they will in the spring and summer. Caging or fencing installed in the fall is one of the best ways to combat this kind of damage. If you are a hunter, then you already know about “lead poisoning”!
Because we tend to stay indoors and not inspect our orchards as much in the winter, damage is often not found until the snow starts to go away in the spring. There aren’t a lot of ways to cure the problems once they start. The best cure is prevention in the fall!
The first time you lose some of your best trees to critter damage during the winter, you will tend to remember this hard earned lesson and take better care in following seasons.