What are those scrape marks on my tree?!
Deer damage to trees is the result of bucks rubbing and scraping their antlers against trees which causes significant damage to the tree’s vascular system. Deer do this to remove the velvet from their antlers and it usually occurs from early fall into winter.
Deer also rub trees during the mating season to attract females or to mark their territory, warning other males to stay away. This activity can result in broken branches and torn tree bark.
So, what can you do about it?
Keep Deer Away from Your Trees
Since deer usually return to the same location, it’s important to know how to protect your trees from deer, especially if the trees have previously been damaged.
The best thing you can do to protect your trees from deer antler rubbing is to prevent the deer from getting close to the tree trunk or branches. This can be done surrounding your trees with deer fencing or using other barriers that offer deer rub tree protection. Repellent sprays are generally not effective for deer rub problems.
Use Deer Fencing for Multiple Trees
Fencing is the most effective way to protect trees from deer as it keeps them away from the entire tree (including branches and leaves, which hungry deer may be tempted to eat if they can reach it). If you have many trees, surround the entire area with woven-wire fencing. However, in order to be effective, it must be at least six to eight feet tall. Deer are great jumpers and will clear vertical fences without difficulty.
Use Tree Guards to Protect Individual Trees
Another way to provide protection is to wrap the tree trunk itself with chicken wire or one of the commercially available types of plastic tree guards.
Some tree guards are made of mesh plastic netting. Others are created from a vinyl spiral that wraps around the trunk but still allows it to grow naturally. They are usually available in rolls and can be cut to the required length. Because they can be cut to size, these types of tree guards work well on larger trees, as well as small ones.
Plastic tubes or pipes that have been cut down one side (lengthwise) can also be fitted around the trunks of trees in an effort to protect trees from deer. This works best for smaller diameter trees. Be sure to choose a plastic that’s white or light in color so it does not produce heat against the tree trunk from the sun.
These wraps and pipes can also protect the tree trunk from sunscald caused by intense sun reflecting off the snow, which has been known to blister or crack the bark.
If you’re having problems with deer eating your trees and shrubs, check out our article on preventing deer damage.