By Helen Fischel, Associate Director, Education
Once the rain subsided last weekend, I ventured out to my Delaware Nature Society-certified backyard habitat to begin the fall clean-up. I was surprised to find several trees that were rubbed by deer in the side yard. Ugly scars in vertical stripes adorned the trees. Since the damage was only done on one side of each of the trees, there is a good chance that they will survive. I responded to this assault by sheathing the trees in wire caging, but the damage has been done and the cambium tissue was violated.
Bucks rub their antlers on the trunks of small trees in late summer to remove their velvet but this does not usually result in much damage to the tree. During the autumn rut, Bucks rub trees to mark their territory and to practice sparring, which they will do in earnest with rival bucks. This is when you will see that your backyard trees have been molested and mangled. Small trees up to 3 or 4 inches in diameter truly are the White-tailed Deer punching bag.
In order to prevent deer from rubbing your backyard trees, some homeowners spray the area with predator urine while others use solar-powered electric fences to deter encroachment. My low-tech method was to whip out some chicken wire and garden fencing to protect the individual trees for now. Hey deer…go pick on somebody else’s trees!
Resources: Tree Injury From Deer Antler Rubbing; Branden Schiess, Graduate Student
University of Idaho and Derek Stoner, Delaware Nature Society.