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Something’s Been Eating in My Yard!

Missing rose buds, pulled up pansies, and damaged tree trunks are all signs that something has been visiting your garden while you are away. But what could it be? Most gardeners are familiar with leaf spots caused by fungal diseases or minor feeding damage by insects, but to see half a shrub or an entire flower bed demolished overnight indicates a different type of pest.

There are several mammals that visit home landscapes and may cause damage, especially in times of drought when natural food sources are limited. Because we provide water for our landscapes, our plants tend to have lush new growth at times when plants in natural areas have slowed growth because of a lack of water or other stressors that managed gardens do not face. So, it’s no surprise that herbivores will be attracted to our landscape for a midnight snack.

It is important to determine what is causing damage so that you can employ protective tactics if possible. Some things to look for to try to figure out who the culprit is are footprints, dropping, feeding clues (bite marks, scrapes, etc.), or other distinctive damage. For more details about how to tell the difference between damage caused by multiple pests see How To Identify the Wildlife Species Responsible for Damage in Your Yard.

Once you have determined what is causing the damage you can try some different strategies to deter future feeding. Some plants may be impossible to protect, but before you spend your money and time check out these recommendations by wildlife specialists at the University of Florida in How to Use Deterrents to Stop Damage Caused by Nuisance Wildlife in Your Yard