Animals that do the most damage to herbaceous plants include: deer, rabbits and woodchucks. Deer damage is distinctive because deer only have teeth on their lower jaws, so when they bite down, they must tear the plant to pull off leaves. Thus, deer damage to plants is rough or shredded-looking. It may also be several feet off of the ground. Plus, if a large amount of plant material is damaged overnight, you should suspect deer. Rabbit damage looks like someone used a pruner to cut the plant off at a clean, 45-degree angle. Woodchucks will mow down plants, or sometimes just nibble on succulent material. They are diurnal, so keep on the lookout.
Anticipate deer problems, especially in suburban or rural areas. Use deterrents such as fencing, scare devices, and repellents. Apply repellents at the first signs of damage to deter deer from establishing a feeding pattern. Deter rabbits by surrounding their favorite plants with small diameter mesh fencing; fencing off the growing area (if possible) with a 2-foot high chicken wire fence tight to the ground, or buried a few inches; and using chemical repellents. Most repellents depend on thorough coverage and may need to be reapplied after wet weather. Exclude woodchucks with heavy-duty chicken wire fencing buried 10-12" below ground and extending at least 4' above ground. There should be an outward pointing lip at both the top and buried bottom of the fencing.
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