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Managing Rabbit and Deer Damage in Blueberry Fields

Rabbits can cause serious damage during the fall, winter, and spring by nipping off shoots, low branches, and buds, and by gnawing at and peeling off bark. Rabbits can be a particularly serious problem with young plants near open lands and when snow cover reduces their food supply.

Deer rarely kill bushes, but browse on buds and shoots. Injury to young bushes is most serious.

The best protection where rabbits or deer are numerous is woven-wire fences. Rabbit fences should be size 2 mesh wire or smaller, and extend at least 2 feet above the snow line. An 8-foot fence is usually necessary for deer.

Chemical repellents are moderately effective, reducing browsing 40 to 50 percent during the dormant period, but less so during the growing season. Research has shown that chemical repellants may be only effective for 1 to 6 days, and are not effective once a feeding pattern has been established.

The same chemicals are used for both rabbits and deer, but with different methods of application. The trunk or branch diameter or the diameter of the damaged area will cause differences in apparent effectiveness. Smaller wood and buds will generally be more readily clipped by rabbits. Brush application is more effective as a protection against rabbits gnawing at and peeling bark. Spray application is more practical to cover buds and shoots browsed by deer.

Cost generally ranges from $400 to $550 per acre. For most effective control, start before deer establish a feeding pattern. For more information on repellents registered for use, contact your local county Extension office.

This fact sheet is adapted from Oregon State University Extension Publication PNW215, Highbush Blueberry Production. The authors of Highbush Blueberry Production are – Oregon State University: Bernadine Strik, Glenn Fisher, John Hart, Russ Ingham, Diane Kaufman, Ross Penhallegon, Jay Pscheidt and Ray William; Washington State University: Charles Brun, M. Ahmedullah, Art Antonelli, Leonard Askham, Peter Bristow, Dyvon Havens, Bill Scheer, and Carl Shanks; University of Idaho: Dan Barney. PNW215, Highbush Blueberry Production can be purchased from the Department of Extension & Experiment Station Communications, Oregon State University. How to Order