The Q&A Archives: What do I do about trees that the deer are shredding the bark off of?

Question: You have been so helpful in the past, I hope you can help me again! I planted an October Red Maple tree this past spring. It is about 6 or 7 feet tall. This morning I awoke to find the bark shredded off about 2 to 3 feet up the trunk! I have another tree, a curly willow, that was chewed on also, breaking it off 6 inches above the ground! What can I do to protect the maple tree from further abuse,(from deer, I assume). Should I wrap it to protect it this winter from the harsh wind. We live in the country and the tree has no protection from the wind, being that it is in the middle of our 1/4 mile front yard! I would hate to lose the tree like this, and would appreciate any suggestions!

Answer: Young maples do tend to suffer winter damage to their bark due to sunscald and thawing on warm sunny days followed by refreezing on severely cold nights. You could wrap it to help shade the bark. Be sure to remove the wrap in the spring.

The rubbing can be a buck rubbing its antlers, yes. I have found a sturdy wire cylinder about four feet tall and allowing a generous clearance around the tree to be a good deterrent for this. I used "barnyard" wire mesh which easily rolls into a cylinder about four or ive feet in diameter, but any stiff wire that will hold its shape and bounce back when pushed should do. I held it in place with plain metal tee stakes around the perimeter. You may also want to use one of the spray on deer repellents to discourage them. These are sold at garden centers. This set-up will also discourage them from browsing on the branches.

Next summer, encourage healing by making sure the tree has ample water during dry spells and topdress with an inch or two of compost. You could also apply a slow release general purpose granular fertilizer per the label instructions.

Assuming it was healthy, the willow will regrow -- although I am sure it looks terrible now. These often suffer some wind/ice/storm breakage in winter anyway, they are brittle, weak-wooded trees. It should regrow fairly quickly due to the larger established root system. To help it along, make sure it receives ample water next spring and summer -- this tree does best in an evenly moist to wet soil although it tolerates average conditions.

You may also want to protect the trees from rabbit damage if they are prevalent in your area. For them, you need to use a fine wire mesh such as wire hardware cloth in a cylinder close to the trunk; it should reach upward about two feet taller than the expected snow line. At the bottom of the tree, flare the wire outward in a flat collar to prevent the rabbits from digging under it. Then cover it with gravel to hold it in place. Then apply your mulch on top of that. This can also help prevent vole damage so, especially in the country, it is a good idea.

Also to discourage animals nesting or chewing the bark, make sure your mulch layer is pulled a few inches away from the trunk.

Good luck with your trees this winter!

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