Protecting trees from Wildlife Damage

Asked October 17, 2016, 8:45 AM EDT

Hello, I have just planted 5 beautiful Plane trees on my property and I have a few questions. First let me tell you about the site. We own 10 acres in Mason, Mi. Our parcel runs East-West, and is narrow and deep. Most of the land was once farmed but is now covered in waist deep weeds including goldenrod, thistles, Queen Anne's lace and more. The area we planted the trees is very moist, and there are even some cat tails in there, it seems as though the water table is high, although we've only been moved in a few weeks, and it's been fairly rainy weather. I do think the land dries out. Around each tree we mowed about a 10' circumference in the weeds, to let sun get to the base of the tree and hopefully dry the ground. The trees are about 10' tall. As winter approaches I'm a little worried about sun scald on the trees and rabbits damaging the bark. I have seen some white wrapping to reflect the heat so the trunks do not get damaged in winter. I have also seen some fences to prevent rabbits and other critters from eating my bark. I wondered if you would recommend either of these treatments in this rural setting? Also, if you do recommend the treatments, where I would find the correct stuff that I need, or what to look for? Any information you can provide would be wonderful. Thank you for your time and commitment to helping.

Michigan wildlife damage management trees and shrubs rabbits voles

1 Response

Sun scald caused by the sun warming up the bark on a cold winter day and then a sudden drop in temperature as the sun sets can damage you trees. You can use the white plastic tree wraps and they should be available in large Garden Stores or you could search the internet for Tree Wraps or Tree Guards. I got lots of hits. Commercial growers who need to buy thousands of wraps balk at the price, but for five trees they are well worth the price. They also protect the tree bark from over zealous mowers with weed eaters trying to clean out weeds next to the trunk who inadvertently girdle the tree with the wee eater.
Rabbits can be a problem especially if we have a lot of snow. Another problem species is voles, which resemble mice but burrow in the ground. They will eat the bark right at the ground level under the snow. So if we have a heavy snow year the voles will girdle the tree at the ground level and rabbits will eat the buds off the branches at the snow line and it the population is high enough the rabbits will also chew on the bark but usually they only eat the more nutritious buds. It is hard to estimate your risk since the populations of these animals rise and fall and some years there is not a problem and others it can be a big problem. Cleaning out around the trees as you have done is good since it eliminates place where they can hide. If you mulch you should clean it out around the trunk as the voles will live in the mulch and eat the tree bark.