Deer Damage -- Oh My, Deer!
Watching Bambi play in the backyard or prance through the woods might be enjoyable to watch, but once this cute, furry little creature crosses the line there is going to be trouble. Deer damage is a common problem in many area backyards during the winter months.
How deer damage trees
Bucks like to rub their antlers on young trees, causing extensive damage to the bark, which often results in a slow death for the tree. Protecting trees from damage is essential in areas populated with deer. Unfortunately, once the damage is done, there is little that can be done to repair the tree. Most times, the tree will need to be removed. I recommend protecting all trees, deciduous and evergreen, under 6 to 8 inches in trunk diameter.
Protect young trees from deer damage
- Odor deterrents
There are several methods for protecting young trees. Some require more work. Some are more effective than others. The simplest method, but also the least dependable, is the use of strong odor deterrent materials. The most common product on the market is called “Liquid Fence,” which is sprayed on the tree. Predator urine is also sold as a deterrent. Deer repellents are not highly effective because they wear off with rain and snow. They should be applied at least once a month, or after every rainfall starting from early fall till late winter. Miss a timely application and the end result is damage.
- Tree Wraps
Another method is to wrap the tree using paper tree wrap or vinyl spiral wrap. Paper wrap is less effective as it can be worn through by the deer. Tree wraps can be found at your local garden centers. Wrap the trunk, covering all exposed bark, from the base until you reach the bottom branches. Be sure to remove the wrap in late winter/early spring before the tree leafs out. Corrugated plastic tubing is another option for protecting young trees. But a word of caution: the friction caused by heavy rubbing can rip the bark.
The most effective method is to construct a rigid fence out and around the trees. Start by using three to four heavy duty metal fence posts. Drive them into the ground at the dripline of the evergreen tree. For deciduous trees, put them 2 feet or more from the trunk. The fence posts provide a rigid object for the deer to rub against. You could stop there, or you could add another level of defense. For additional protection, wrap the fence posts with a woven wire. Concrete reinforcing wire or similar material works well. This encloses the tree and prevents the deer from getting to it.
Another option comes from my farm boy background. Use cattle panels and wrap them around the tree. Cattle panels are constructed from heavy weight galvanized wire rods. This may not be practical for those without a pickup truck or trailer to transport the panels. Cattle panels are also costly, but easy to install.
- Home Remedies
One last thought. There are a number of home remedies to keep deer at bay. These include hanging all types of odorous soaps or even human hair in the lower branches. But, the bottom line is they provided spotty control at best. With that being said the Extension Master Gardeners have had great success using the soap method. We have been using Irish Spring soap. In early September, prior to the rutting season, we simply wipe/rub the bar of soap up and down the tree trunk. Once that is accomplished the remaining piece of the bar is hung in the trees about deer head height. Since using this method we have had little or no damage. The deer pressure in our garden at the office where this method is being used is low.
Before cute cuddly Bambi destroys your investment, take action. You will not regret the time and effort, and your trees will also say “Thank you.”