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Sunday - February 03, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Deer Resistant
Title: Bur oak bark damage done by deer
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Dear Mr. Smarty Plants: Just noticed that deer have been rubbing the bark on good sized, but young, bur oaks planted last spring. Mostly in one spot on one side of the trunk. Will this kill the tree? Is there something we can do to help with bark repair? Are deer attracted only to "young" bark . . . Particular kinds of trees? . . . Should we expect to wrap and protect even more mature trees? d.


We searched far and wide and found only offhand remarks about the kind of damage deer rubbing could do to oak bark. Most of the damage dealt with has to do with deer stunting or killing young trees by eating the budding tips of the branches. Since Quercus macrocopa, Bur oak, is relatively fast-growing, this would seem to be a problem solved by time. The same appears to be the case with the bark rubbing. As the tree grows older, the bark grows tougher and thicker, and the rubbing will not damage it. As long as the tree bark has not been "girdled" or cut all the way around, it won't kill the tree, but it won't do it any good, either, and insects or disease could invade through that opening in the bark. It doesn't appear that deer are particularly attracted to one tree over another, but just to whatever is vulnerable and in their path. We studied several "repellants" recommended by growers, but they all have to be replaced after a rain, and seem to be mostly for protecting young seedlings and tender stem tips.

We did find a couple of resources discussing tree wrapping, which apparently needs to be done for a year or so, until the tree gets big enough or tough enough to resist damage by deer and other beasties. The first is "Newly Planted Trees Need Protection" by John Begeman of the University of Arizona. From the University of Minnesota Forest Resources Extension Services comes this article on "Tree Stem Protection." Of course, if you are really having problems with deer in your garden, you may have to consider something like deer fencing, which is a whole other subject. You are the only one who can judge how valuable the trees are to you, how old they are, and thus how near to being big enough to withstand the deer assaults, and whether vigorous measures are called for.

Quercus macrocarpa



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