Deer Rubbing and the Health of Trees Deer Rubbing - NoVa Deer Shield
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Deer Rubbing

Deer Rubbing

 

What is “rubbing” and why do deer do it?

Rubbing refers to the process where a deer rubs a tree and usually does extensive damage to the trunk.  This can introduce disease and even kill the young tree if all the outer bark is removed.

Bucks perform this activity and the reason is usually two-fold.  They are rubbing the outer coating, known as velvet, off their antlers and this usually signifies the beginning of mating season, known as rutting.  In addition to removing the velvet, bucks are marking their territory. Bucks have scent glands on their foreheads and by rubbing the tree they leave their scent behind. They are letting other bucks and does know this is where they plan to stake their claim.

This activity typically happens to young trees with narrow diameters and smooth bark.  Cedars, willows, and fruit trees seem to be preferential.  But that does not mean other trees are safe.

It is time to protect that landscape investment.  If you have planted trees that are susceptible to rubbing, here are some ways to protect them:

How to protect small trees from deer rubbing:

Fencing:  if you do not have many trees to protect, stakes can be placed surrounding the tree and a fencing material like plastic coated wire can be attached.  Even your tomato cages placed around the tree will help deter deer.

Corrugated drainpipe:  thin drainpipe can be cut to the height of the trunk and then slit to put around the base of the tree trunk.  Be careful that low branches can also be rubbed by deer, so additional protection may be needed for this area.

Wrapping:  wrapping the tree with a tree protection such as burlap or tree specific tape can help protect the bark.  Just continue to check the tree.  A buck is aggressive when he rubs, and if he damages the tape the first time and returns a second, or another buck rubs the same tree, damage to the bark can then occur.

Electric fence:  if you have a large area as in an orchard, an electric fence may be used.  Just remember deer can jump more than 7 feet.

Deer Fencing:  Black netting know as deer fence can be placed around a group of trees with stakes.  Deer tend to not jump into an area where there is an uncertain amount of space to land.

Here is a YouTube video showing a good way to protect your trees: “Deer Protection for Trees by Bill McAdams”

Trees are expensive and it is important to protect that investment.  September is the beginning of rutting season for deer which will last through December.  It is especially important to protect your trees before the damage begins!

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