How to Protect Trees from Deer Rubbing – Simple but Effective Methods!

Deer is one of the most common big mammals that might dwell on your private property. What characterizes this animal is their antlers. Their antlers can grow into a spectacular size over the year. Though, unlike other horned mammals, deer would shed them annually.

They lose their antlers yearly by rubbing their antlers against the tree. The rubbing would cause deer to lose the antler’s velvet, the layer on the antler, and shed them. Deer also rub their forehead onto trees to mark their territories, leaving their scents on overhanging branches. Hence, you might want to learn how to protect trees from deer rubbing if this animal roams inside your area.

If you ever spot scrap marks on the tree, it may be caused by the deer rubs. Deers like to rub their antlers on reachable branches with heights around the same as them. Therefore, small trees are susceptible to deer rubs.

Only dominant and mature deer rub large trees. This rubbing activity may sound harmful to deer antlers and harmless to the tree, but do you know that deer rubbing is bad for the tree instead?

Although deer antlers are not permanent and grow yearly, deer rubbing is strong enough to damage tree bark and causes problems. To avoid the problem, you need to understand the damage caused by the deer rub, why deer rub the tree, and how to prevent that.

When do deer start rubbing their antlers?

Knowing when do deer start rubbing their antlers is detrimental to effectively safeguarding the trees.

Deer usually start rubbing their antlers during early fall to late winter. The deer rub season also happens during the mating season, begins in early September, and can last until February.

During the mating season, deer don’t just rub to shed their antlers but also to attract females and mark their territories so other males will stay away. Most damage caused by deer rubs occurs around September to October.

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Will a deer rub kill a tree?

When a tree gets rubbed by deer simultaneously, the outer layer and the deeper tissue of the tree get scraped. This damage may not appear life-threatening to the tree, but it affects the tree’s vascular system.

The damaged part of the tree bark may interrupt the distribution of water and nutrients from the roots to the leaves and vice versa. This lack of nutrients and water caused by deer rub possibly kills the tree, especially the young ones that haven’t established their stems and vascular system.

So, will a deer rub kill a tree? The answer is yes. It is especially likely if the trees are young.

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How to protect trees from deer rubbing safely?

A large and mature tree may survive deer rub because they already have an established core that keeps the water and nutrients flowing well. So, the damage on such trees usually are superficial.

The ones that are threatened by deer rub damager are the young trees. To prevent young trees gets scraped by deer rub, you should protect the tree before the deer rub season start. Here are several simple ways to protect trees from deer rubs.

Try placing a large cage around the young trees.

The cage will make the trees unreachable from deers’ antlers. Ensure the cage doesn’t rub trees branch, though.

placing a large cage around the young trees

An easier way to protect trees is to use stakes. You can set three or more stakes onto the ground around the trees to avoid deer rubbing the tree.

An easier way to protect trees is to use stakes

You can also purchase tree tubes. It’s inexpensive! Tree tubes are easy to use and can protect the whole small tree and small plantings. It will be very suitable for use in a large area with a lot of younglings. Use the tubes along with the stake to make it more effective.

Tree tubes are easy to use and can protect the whole small tree and small plantings

For a large scale with high tree density, you will need to install fences around the group of trees for protection. It doesn’t have to be high to deter deer, just wide enough to cover the whole tree area. Deers are not likely to jump over fences, so placing small barriers around a small area will be enough to keep the deer away.

install fences around the group of trees for protection from deer rubbing
Image : hobbyfarms

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How long to protect trees from deer?

How long the trees need protection may depend on what protection method the trees are going through. Using tree tubes and cages may be easy to install and remove, so using this protection will not take time. It also won’t be a problem if tree tubes and cages are too tight as long as you remove them when deer rubbing season ends. As trees grow, they will also need larger protection, such as fences.

Fences installed around the tree for protection are usually not easy to move or disassemble. Protecting the trees can be done from time to time until the tree is considered mature enough, but remember that trees are living beings that grow bigger over time. So it’s okay to put protection like fences as long as it doesn’t interfere with tree growth. Just ensure to give some extra space.

When trees reach about 6” in diameter, their core is considered stable and will no longer need protection. A mature and large tree will likely survive the deer rub. Measure the trees regularly to check if they reach this size and are ready for afforestation in the area. Let the trees grow bigger!

How to repair tree bark damage from deer?

Learning how to repair tree bark damage from deer rubbing is an essential skill that you should know! If the damage is already done, you can help mature tree to heal safely. It’ll reduce the risk of infection.

Although tree protection from deer has been carried out, damage to tree bark due to rubbing antlers deer still has the potential to occur.

How to repair tree bark damage from deer

The deer usually come to the same tree to rub their antlers. So the damage to one tree can be significant and irreparable sometimes, especially young trees with very thin barks.

As living things, trees can heal themselves from damage. There’s no need to cover the damage with a wrap or anything. However, we can speed up the healing by smoothing the edges and pruning the broken branches. Deer rubbing damage usually leaves ragged edges, which makes the tree heal longer. So, smoothing the edges by cutting the wounds will speed up the repair!

Lastly, remember that deer and trees live side by side in nature. We can protect trees from damage but not disturb the life of the deer. Likewise, we can let the deers live freely, but don’t let them disrupt the life of the trees. Knowing nature’s boundaries can make it a better place.

Now that you know how to protect trees from deer rubbing, you might also want to learn how to deal with spidermites!