Small Cedar Hedge Shows Possible Winter Animal Damage

(Question)

Hi, These young cedars are at the cottage. I returned this spring to find that they are all clipped with neat little 45 degree angle cuts – it looks like someone used pruners. All of the branches and tips that are cut are lying around at the base of the trees. Could you tell me if this is animal damage? What animal? thank-you.
Maritta Mansikka
416-815-7877

(Answer)

In cottage country, hungry deer are a real problem through the winter and they are especially fond of cedar.  So deer damage was my first thought in terms of the damage to your cedar.  At my own cottage, only the small cedars, that are completely snow covered, escape deer damage over the winter.  The taller established cedars are all browsed to a height of about 5 feet.  However, deer damage looks random and ragged as they twist and tear off the tender leaves and twigs and they don’t leave branches and twigs lying around.

Cedars are not a favourite of rabbits but they will feed on all small trees and shrubs when food is scarce.  In the winter, rabbits clip off branches at clean 45 degree angles and eat the bark.  This description corresponds better to the damage shown in your photo.  You may also find little piles of rabbit excrement in your garden which could confirm the culprit of the damage, so keep a look out.  If you’d like to read more about rabbit damage and how to prevent it, I’ve included a link below to a good article from the University of Illinois.

https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/homeowners/041123.html