Blue Rug Juniper bushes
This stakeholder planted several Blue Rug Juniper bushes last fall. She lives along the Lake Huron shoreline and landscaped them near her break wall by the lake. After the snow melted she discovered them as you will see in the 3 photos I have attached. We need to know if you feel this was a rabbit or other critter who did the damage or if it is possible lake ice played a role. If it is a critter please advise as to what netting, etc. might be used to prevent this in the future. Also, are the plants likely to survive this?
Alpena County Michigan
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How very sad to discover newly planted shrubs in such a state after our long brutal winter. I'm attaching some links that my help you.
It is difficult to tell exactly what the culprit is but I will make some educated guesses. If the snow cover was intact all winter and the damage is bark stripping under the snow cover level and gnaw marks on the stems, I suspect voles. They love to eat the junipers especially when protected from predators by the snow. If the damage seems to be torn growth tips, I would suspect deer. Both voles and deer love new plantings. The fertilizers used to push growth in the nurseries make them taste especially sweet and hungry animals are looking for all the nutrients they can get in the winter. If ice flows came up over the wall they too can do a lot of damage but as they were newly planted I would expect them to be uprooted as well.
Again these are only educated guesses based on the information and pictures you submitted but I hope you have some ideas now of what may have caused the damage.
As to your question "Will they recover?", it depends on the extent of the damage. They will not look like what was planted. If the plant was girdled up from the base, it is probably best to replant. I'm a wait and see person so if the damage is not severe you could wait and see if they push new growth. After new growth begins trim out the dead branches.
Here are some links that give info on animal and winter damage with strategies to prevent damage.