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Rabbits 'bark up wrong tree' for local gardener

Know It and Grow It
Lead Summary
George Bonnema, Luverne Horticulturalist

Yes, we have lots of deep snow, and yes, we have cottontail rabbits, and yes, the rabbits get hungry when their food source is buried by the snow, and yes, they will eat most anything palatable they can find, and no, they don’t ask your permission to ruin the plants they choose to eat in your landscape.
As a rule, they will not dig down into the snow to find something to eat, but they will eat whatever they like right down to the snow line. For many plants that is not a problem unless that particular plant blooms on old (last year’s) growth, ie. weigela or lilacs.
What I see them eating in my yard right now are the barberry shrubs and roses. I would ordinarily prune these shrubs back in the spring anyway so getting help with the task means instead of branches to pick up and haul away, I get rabbit poop.
The real damage comes from their eating the bark of young trees, most specifically fruit trees. As compared to other trees, fruit tree bark is their preference, and once they have girdled the tree, they have killed it.
Trees can be protected with vinyl tree wraps or paper wrap. Shrubs can be protected with fencing, provided it is high enough.
The option other than these physical barriers is to change the flavor of what they are eating so they leave it alone. If you Google natural rabbit repellent, you will find recipes using cayenne or chili pepper, garlic, dish soap, Tabasco sauce, eggs, and water in varying units added to water to spray on the stems at the level the damage is happening.  Depending on weather conditions, these natural sprays are pretty effective.  The egg and/or soap acts as an adherent to give longer residual protection. 
There are commercial rabbit repellent sprays available made with the same ingredients if you prefer not to make your own. That being said, you still will have to reapply periodically … and you successfully moved the rabbit population to your neighbor’s yard.
To me, the biggest threat is still coming later in the season. When tulips emerge in the spring, that tulip sprout is a rabbit treat, and they will totally ruin not only this year’s potential for flowers, but the bulb itself.
Therein lies the reason I have no appreciation for the critters. I trap them using a catch ’em alive trap baited with cracked corn. Yes, I have to release birds from the trap because they think the corn is for them.   And yes, the squirrels check out the free food, so there’s competition for the feast.
To eliminate the other visitors, I set the trap at dusk because rabbits feed at night. 

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