Deer Protection young trees

Asked November 18, 2013, 7:55 PM EST

I am having a problem with deer rubbing the bark off my newly planted trees. What kind of protection can I provide (make or buy) and what should I do to heal the damage already done to the bark?

Montgomery County Pennsylvania

1 Response

Protecting plants and trees from deer damage can be a frustrating and never ending exercise. I'm afraid I don't have any quick and simple solutions for you.

If you can't put up a fence, your options are pretty limited. The commercial deer repellants sometimes work, if you remember to reapply them every few weeks at least. It's best to rotate a couple of different repellants, particularly if deer pressure is particularly high where you live. If you're protecting only a small area, the motion activated sprinklers (such as the Water Scarecrow) will work within the area hit by the water (and they will also be activated by pets and people walking by) and you have to always remember to turn on the water. This can be a problem during the winter season. You might also try spreading milorganite around the tree. Nothing is guaranteed to work. Deer are adverse to certain trees and shrubs unless they can’t find something more appetizing.

The following publication from Penn State provides a more comprehensive overview of the problem:

Deer can damage trees by rubbing their antlers on the trunks even when the trees are relatively mature. It would be wise to protect the trunk with netting or chicken wire during the late fall and early winter months when rubbing is most frequent. Without some additional description of the damage already done it is not possible to render an opinion on the chances of survival.
Good luck with your efforts.