Minnesotans begin dealing with warm weather pests as spring progresses

After a winter for the record books, many Minnesotans are feeling downright giddy now that the sun is out, and the sun is melting.

But take a walk around your backyard, and you might be met with an unwelcome surprise this spring.

With mountains of snow covering up other food sources this winter, rabbits, voles and deer made meals out of tree and shrub bark, stripping branches clean.

"This is one of the worst winters I've seen for animal damage on shrubs especially," Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Arborist Dan Gjertson told FOX 9.

Gjertson says the damage is the worst he's seen.

"A lot of snow cover around the multi-stemmed shrubs allowed animals, especially voles, to get underneath the snow. They are protected there and feed away on that first layer of bark," said Gjertson.

His team has been cleaning up and cutting branches all week. If your shrub branches have been stripped, Gjertson recommends pruning the damaged branches down.

"You can cut that plant back to the crown, usually two or three inches above the surface of the soil, and you will rejuvenate that plant," said Gjertson.

But if your tree has been stripped extensively, they likely are beyond help.

Come next winter, he advises putting up hardware cloth to protect from voles and chicken wire for rabbits. As for deer?

"Maybe get your dog out. If you have a dog out patrolling more often than not," said Gjertson.

The best time to put up those protective fences is in October, so be sure to mark your calendar.