Whatís been nibbling the rosebuds and leaves?

August 27, 2018

Dear Joan: I want to know if you can tell me what kind of animal would be eating the rosebush leaves and its flowers.

The bush is in a pot in the backyard. I thought the thorns would keep anything from eating the roses. I had no problem in the past, but this summer something has eaten it.

Could a rabbit have fur thick enough to not be hurt by the thorns?

A: Wild rabbits have a very tough hide beneath that oh-so-soft coat, which allows them to get in and out of prickly places without harm. Some of them even live in thickets that would rip us to pieces trying to get through.

California is home to eight types of rabbits, but only three of them ó the jackrabbit, the desert cottontail, and the brush rabbit ó are responsible for the most damage. The jackrabbit is the largest of the three, growing to about the size of a large house cat.

If it is a rabbit, damage to your rose bush would most likely be limited on the lower parts, depending on how high the rabbit can reach. You also likely would see chewing on the stems and branches, and rabbit pellets, or droppings, around the plant or in the yard.

Another suspect is the squirrel, which is lighter and more nimble than the rabbit, so therefore could reach the higher branches. Thorns are not a deterrent.

If youíre seeing damage overnight, then a rabbit is the stronger suspect. If it occurs throughout the day, then the squirrel is your guy.

Hot pepper sauce on and around the bush should discourage either rose nibbler.

Dear Joan: Can you settle a friendly debate Iím having with my neighbor? Are squirrels vermin? I think only rats are called vermin, but I donít know what squirrels are called.

A.: It depends on whom you ask. When most people speak of vermin, they typically mean rodents. However, by definition, vermin are "pests or nuisance animals that spread diseases or destroy crops or livestock." Because almost any creature can fit that definition, including humans, the term is applied to different animals in different situations.

For someone who battles squirrels over the tomato crop, squirrels would most definitely be considered vermin. For someone who enjoys watching the squirrels scamper along fences and making flying leaps from tree to tree, squirrels are wildlife.

Squirrels are part of the rodent family, but as what to call them, I might suggest "trouble."



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