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"And the LORD God made ... trees that were pleasing to the eye ..." Gen. 2:9, New International Version.

"Bonsai isn't just something I do; it's part of what I am." Remark to my wife and daughter.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"This means WAR!"

OK, the title of this post is a bit exaggerated for effect. But some critter has definitely worn out whatever welcome it once had.

I discovered yesterday that some marauding rodent has been lunching on the bark of one of my Japanese maples. The tree was under the rack in the side yard, with the rest of my fully-hardy trees. (See this post.) At first look I thought some fungus had attacked the maple's trunk. Then I pulled the tree out into full light, and realized I was seeing chewing damage.

Rodent damage to a Japanese maple.
From the size of the tooth marks, I'm sure the culprit is either a fox squirrel or a chipmunk. A chipmunk is more likely: one has been living in a corner of our side yard, tolerated until now. That tolerance has ended. I won't kill it if I don't have to, but I will do whatever it takes to drive it off. (For those outside the US, this is a chipmunk.)

There are cans of mothballs under the rack, to discourage just such depredations. But this maple was right next to one end of the rack, just inches from the cover; and it was apparently a little too far from any mothballs to deter a snack-minded furry raider. Add to that the fact that maple bark is a familiar food to local wildlife -- two native maples are very common here -- and perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised that this happened.

I checked for damage to other trees, and found tooth marks on a spiraea and a shimpaku. As far as I could see, no pines were touched. Not
surprising, perhaps: there are no native conifers except a few common junipers, so the local bark-eaters have never developed a taste for them.

Much of the cambium is gone, but enough is left -- and enough of that is connected to other surviving cambium -- that I am trying to salvage the tree. I smeared cut paste over the chewed areas generously, then moved the tree into the mudroom with the half-hardies. The maple's rootball was still frozen, so I'm giving it time to thaw slowly. Tomorrow I'll move this tree into the Crate with the tropicals, where it will have the most favorable conditions I can give it. Then I will baby it. If it survives, this will certainly be a maple with character!

I placed a couple of mousetraps under the rack: one where the maple had been sitting (in case the beggar comes back for dessert,) and one near the spiraea. A mousetrap isn't big enough to kill a chipmunk (tho it might snag a slow paw,) but it can give one an unpleasant crack on the forehead; enough, I would think, to encourage the beast to forage elsewhere.

I must ask my wife to start saving cat-food cans again. Next winter I'm going to put at least half again as many cans of mothballs with the hardy trees. There will be a can sitting next to the trunk of any maple. And I will make sure no maples are near the outside cover of the shelter.

But before then, I intend to evict that chipmunk.

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