Deer, Voles And Rabbits Are Disruptive Garden Pests

White-tailed deer
Eastern cottontail
White tailed deer like this one can wreak havoc on a vegetable garden. Installing a New Zealand-type charger can help prevent them from destroying your crops.
The Eastern cottontail rabbit's incisors make a distinct cut on vegetation, making their presence easy to identify. Use a small mesh fence, with a height of about 18 inches, to keep rabbits away.

Animals can do a lot of damage to your vegetable garden crop. From large deer to voles, animals the size of a mouse, there are a lot of animals that can damage plants and crops you have worked hard to grow.

It is critical to identify what pest is causing the problems you are experiencing. This is important because the treatment for each pest is different.

Voles, rabbits and deer are among the most disruptive garden pests.

Voles-- These small rodents resemble a mouse with a blunt nose, short tail and ears, and a stout body. Voles tunnel under litter and eat the root system of plants. They stay out of the open, usually lingering on the edge of gardens. Voles don't like to venture out because they are vulnerable to predators. However, if cover litter (mulch, dead plants, etc.) is there, they will go into the garden. Reducing the litter on the ground of the vegetable garden or using snap traps is a good way to remedy vole problems.

Rabbits-- The upper and lower front teeth of rabbits make a distinct cut on vegetation. If you have a sharp cut at a 45-degree angle, you have rabbits invading your garden. Using a small-mesh fence at a height of about 18 inches should keep the rabbits away. Make sure it is staked close to the ground or they can still crawl in.

Deer-- These creatures have no upper front teeth, so their presence can be seen by a frayed or jagged cut on the plants in the vegetable garden. Also, looking for deer tracks is a good indication you have had visitors.

There are several things you can do to try and prevent deer from destroying your crops. There are several repellants on the market. Some are odor repellants and some are taste repellants. They have varying success, but some are not recommended for vegetable gardens.

There are also electric fences on the market for keeping deer out of your garden. A New Zealand-type charger has an electrical current that pulses at about 7,000 volts. That's not enough voltage to kill a deer, but enough to keep deer out of your vegetable garden.

Put a fence up before you plant your garden. Get it hot and keep it hot. If you have an electric fence with no vegetable garden on the other side, deer will not be in a habit of trying to slip through your fence and will likely stay away when you have a garden in place.

You can also modify an electric fence for deer. (NOTE: This should be done when the fence is not activated) Hang aluminum foil flags from the fence. Put peanut butter on the flags. Then re-activate your fence. Deer will eat the peanut butter off the flags and receive a jolt. This is extra incentive and reinforcement of your message, "stay out of the garden."

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SOURCE: Dr. Jim Armstrong, Extension wildlife scientist, Alabama Cooperative Extension System (334) 844-9233.

Prepared by Kenny Smith, Communications intern