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Deer Damaged Tree Trunk

My 6 year old red maple tree was the victim of a whitetail buck. He rubbed his horns on the trunk scraping away the bark on 3 sides of the tree. Is there anything I can do to help my tree?

If it isn’t bad enough that deer eat up everything in the garden, they can also be quite destructive with their antlers. A male deer will rub his antlers on a tree to mark it with his scent. This lets the area does know he is available if they are interested and tells passing bucks to keep away.

The problem arises when the bark is peeled away from the trunk. This exposes the delicate vascular layer beneath that transports nutrients and water throughout the tree.

With minimal damage, say just one or two sides of the tree are affected, the tree won’t suffer much but it may lose some leaves and branches.

Girdling is more serious. This is when the bark has been scraped away all the way around the trunk. In many cases the tree won’t survive and it’s important to call in an arborist to help gauge the situation.

It sounds like the deer in your garden did quite a bit of damage, but he didn’t manage to girdle the trunk, which is good news.

Without seeing the size of the wounds it’s impossible to determine if you need to contact an arborist. If they are close enough together to be almost continuous then get professional help. If the wounds are small there are some things you can do to help them heal properly.

Get to work as soon as you can. Fast action goes a long way towards a quick recovery.

If it’s still around, you can reattach the displaced bark to the tree. Simply cover the wound with the bark, securing it in place with duct tape or a sturdy strap. It will take about 3 months for the bark to reattach. Be sure to remove the binding once the wound has healed to prevent it from cutting into the trunk as the tree grows.

If there isn’t any bark, clean the edges of the wound. Cut away the torn and jagged edges of the bark with a sharp knife. You want to create a pointed oval with the top and bottom being narrower than the middle. Try to do this without greatly increasing the amount of lost bark or cutting into the tree.

As a final measure it would be a good idea to prevent further deer damage by protecting the trunk with a tree guard. You can purchase these online or at your favorite lawn and garden retailer.