deer

Do Deer Eat Trees & Which Other Animals Can Cause Your Trees Harm

If you’re fortunate to have a home nestled in a more suburban or rural community, then you may have seen deer meandering on your property on occasion. How graceful they are to watch glide by, prancing and dancing around as they head home for the night. And while it’s a wonderful site to behold, have you considered how their presence, and other animals in your neighborhood, is impacting your landscape?

You’ve carefully chosen the perfect trees to complement your space, but are those graceful fawns nibbling at your cherished plants when you turn your back?

Do Deer Eat Trees?

While trees are not the main food source for deer, these woodland creatures can certainly wreak havoc on your landscaping as they are known to nibble on bark, stems, foliage, and buds, and even rub their antlers against tree trunks – the potentially most harmful act as this could lead to its demise.

Unfortunately, some of our favorite Oregon trees are the ones most susceptible to the deer as they are most attracted to crabapples, flowering cherries, Kousa dogwoods, Japanese maples, and white pine, among others.

Deer are also fans of tulips, lilies, roses, ivy, and strawberries, so your trees aren’t the only ones in danger.

Is the Damage on Your Tree Caused by Deer?

If you’ve seen deer around, then it’s likely a culprit if you’ve noticed any damage to these plants, but they are pretty sly and can easily slink away before you catch their gaze. So keep an eye out for the following:

  • Nibbled produce
    • Roughly clipped leaves
    • Small piles of round black droppings
    • Hoof prints
    • Vanishing blossoms
    • Broken twigs

Deer can reach as tall as six feet, so don’t be surprised to learn that they’ve been the ones rifling through your yard.

What’s the Solution?

There are no definitive answers, but there are numerous deterrents you can try. Odor deterrents include mothballs, hair, blood meal, garlic, and fabric softener. You can also implement physical blocks like thorny branches, floodlights, hidden fishing line, sprinkles, fences, and netting.

Noise deterrents are also an option with things like flags, radios, whistles, firecrackers, and electric wires. If none of these are working, try a DIY deer-away spray, which may include things such as rotten eggs and water, soap, or hot peppers. Whatever you select, just try to keep it organic for the safety of the trees and animals alike.

What Other Animals Can be Detrimental to Trees?

Rabbits 

These furry floppy-eared friends are cute and cuddly, but they can also cause damage to your trees, particularly in winter. This is when tree bark becomes a source of food and you might find teeth marks along the trunks of your favorite woody beings. When it eats the bark all the way around the tree it’s called girdling. This will lead to tree death, so rabbits may be pet sometimes, but they are also incidental destroyers of trees.

If you notice this is a problem for your trees, you’ll need to craft a barrier around the tree that is at least 18 inches tall. One option is using wire with holes no more than ¼-inches in diameter. But keep in mind that if it snows the rabbits can stand atop and have easier access, so maybe add a few inches to the top to be safe.

Mice & Rats 

These burrowing creatures can create havoc for your trees. They may developed tunnels under and around the base of trees that may seem harmless, but are actually compromising the structure of the tree’s root system. They sometimes gnaw holes in trees as well. If these rodents chew so deep through the bark that they reach the cambium, they could also damage the nutrient and water transportation of the tree.

Similar to rabbits, if you suspect this is an issue for your trees, you’ll want to create a barrier with hardware cloth or a plastic tree guard. In this case make sure it’s at least two to four inches deep into the soil and eight inches above. As you might suspect, these rodents don’t like to be out and above and will instead hide in growing vegetation around your trees to evade your notice. Cutting back this growth may also prevent their attack on your trees.

Raccoons 

These pests are truly that as they cause all kinds of chaos. They’ll get into garbage you’ve left out, they’ll scare or even attack your pets, and they can certainly cause damage to your trees. Fruit trees, in particular, are a favorite as they like to nibble on the blooms, especially after dark. They have also been known to disturb laid mulch as they dig for insects and worms to eat that live in the nutrient-rich soil.

You can prevent their damage by making your space less inviting. Start by not feeding these wild animals that will eat almost anything in front of them. Similarly, make sure they don’t have access to garage. This means making sure any bins left outside cannot be opened as they will find a way to get in.

Also make sure to feed your pets indoors. If this is not possible, aim for outdoor feeds in the late morning or midday and pick up any spilled food because the raccoons will come for the crumbs. Additionally, if you barbeque, make sure to properly clean up afterward as any lingering food or smells will be very attractive to this and other animals.

Your trees are susceptible to many natural forces. So do deer eat trees? Yes, wind, snow, insects and yes, even deer and other wildlife, big and small, can cause major tree damage. If you suspect you have any issue or need advice on prevent further damage, reach out to your local tree care company for more information.

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