Fruit Tree Damage by Rabbit/Mouse


Please note that our Peaches Fruit Trees’ Trunk just above ground has been damage by Rabbit/Mouse, can you please let us know if there is any thing that can be save/recover!! thanks appreciated your response have a great day


Dear gardener, so sorry to see the winter damage on your poor fruit tree.

You do not mention where you are located so I am going to assume you are in Toronto. I ask this as it can help narrow down the culprit. From the photo, I can’t tell if your tree is buried on a container or if you have installed a plastic barrier around the tree for protection. I do however, noticed there is a soil level difference which may have been caused by heaving (or perhaps it is leaves mulch under the snow, hard to see).

There are a number of animals that like to feed on trees during the winter months as food is scarce during that period. Voles and mice can be a serious problem. Through the rest of the year, there is usually sufficient food present which is more palatable, preventing the trees from being damaged in the same ways. In winter, these creatures will chew on the bark near ground level thus damaging the cambium (The cambium is very close to the outside of the tree and has only the bark for protection). In many cases the damage will entirely circle the trunk, girdling the tree; this is called ring-barking and totally cuts off the vascular system of the tree. Voles and mice travel under the snow which acts as an insulating blanket and provides cover from predators. Rabbits, groundhogs and porcupines may also damage trees by burrowing under roots or chewing on bark. Squirrels will feed on the bark or buds of trees and shrubs through the winter when there is little else to feed on.

In terms of damage to the tree, it depends on how extensive or how deep the damage has been. As I mentioned above, unless it completely encircles the trunk, the tree may cope (not heal but seal) with the wound. When wounded in one area, a healthy tree begins to compartmentalize the injury thus sealing it and, at the same time, starts growing barriers against decay. If only the outer bark is lost, the tree can typically recover with a bit of extra attention to watering. On the other hand, if deeper damage or girdling, trees sometimes can not recover as there is disruption to their vascular system.

So, here are things you can do to help: this year, ensure your tree gets proper amount of water and nutrients in the soil (with compost). You can apply mulch around the tree but ensure it is placed 20cm (8″) away from trunk to avoid covering the tree collar and prevent any diseases. In your photo, for instance, the mulch would have to be applied outside the blue ring where the roots extend, assuming the tree is planted in the ground.

Next Fall, use plastic tree guards/protectors, available from your local garden center, or make cages of chicken wire around the trunk to deny these animals further access to bark. Please note that, if using tree guards, they need to be removed in the spring to avoid harbouring pests and allow for tree expansion. Cages can stay around the tree as long as they are not touching the trunk.

Best of luck with your fruit tree and thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.