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Deer Damage And Your Landscape Trees

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Living close to nature can be rewarding, but it can also be hard on your landscaping. Deer in particular can be damaging. They don't just browse on flowers and shrubbery, they can also kill trees on your property as they seek forage. 

Types of Damage

Deer will chew the bark off a tree in order to reach the nutrient-rich cambium layer below. This type of damage is common primarily in winter when other sources of food may not be readily available. Young trees tend to be more susceptible to deer damage because they are younger with thinner bark, but mature trees that are naturally thin-barked can also suffer deer browse damage. 

A couple of strips of missing bark won't greatly impact a healthy tree, but if too much bark is removed the tree becomes girdled. This means there is a strip around the trunk with no bark or cambium layer, which will inhibit the movement of nutrients and water. Once girdling occurs, there is no way to save a tree from dying. 

Damage Repair

If caught early before girdling becomes a concern, deer damage on a tree trunk is repairable. Your tree care technician will begin by cleaning up the wound with a clean, sharp utility knife. The ragged edges of the wound will be cut smooth, and any sharp corners in the bark surrounding the wounded area will be smoothed into curves.

Trimming the edges of the bark surrounding the wound makes it easier for the tree to begin sealing over it so that pest and disease organisms can't use the damage as a way into the trunk. Trimmed wounds also look nicer from a landscaping point of view. 

Future Mitigation

Repairing the deer damage isn't enough, as the animals will be back. It can be difficult to prevent the deer from coming onto your property, but you can prevent them from accessing the tree bark they are trying to feed upon. 

Tree guards are wire or plastic cages that are a bit larger than the tree trunk. They are placed around the trunk with enough space so they won't constrict the tree's growth. Wire guards aren't very noticeable, while plastic ones are a bit more visible but a cost-effective option if you have a lot of trees to protect. The guards are replaced every year or two so they don't become too small for the tree trunk. 

Contact a tree care service in your area if you need more help with any deer-damaged trees.