Rodent that eats base of skip laurel's
Unfortunately, severe damage can be done by chewing animals as you have witnessed. Voles, chipmunks, rabbits or even squirrels can do this kind of damage if there are high populations competing for food in the area.
Mulch applied too close to the trunk can encourage small animal feeding as it hides the activity and provides a safe feeding area. Back mulch away from trunks by at lease 12 inches if possible.
Best solution: Tree trunk protectors as wraps (heavy paper or plastic) or plastic guards (usually found at nurseries) that are cut to fit, can keep animals away from tender bark.
Alternate options include: Chemical deterrents applied around the base can be useful but have to be re-applied often to be helpful. Blood meal is organic and may also deter small animals.
Trapping the animals may cut down on the population and provide some control.
Feel free to contact our office if you have other questions.
Let me know if I can help you further!
Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service
200 Juneau Drive
Louisville KY 40243
You are welcome!