Rabbits and mice will eat the bark of trees and shrubs during the winter. When the feeding encircles the stem, it dies. Girdled stems may try to leaf out in the spring but will die shortly after. Girdled evergreen stems will turn brown.
You may use repellents or cylinders of hardware cloth or sheet metal to protect the trunks and stems of trees and shrubs. The repellent or rodent guard needs to extend above the usual snow line so the animal can not stand on the snow and feed above the protected area.
Squirrels will clip off branches and gnaw the bark of trees. Squirrels clip the branches for use in nest building but drop many of them to the ground. The bark gnawing can leave small pieces of bark on the ground. Girdled branches will die.
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