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GardenSMART :: The Buck Stops Here

The Buck Stops Here

By Bobbex, Inc.
Photographs courtesy of Bobbex, Inc.

Male deer, commonly known as "bucks," can cause significant damage to landscape trees when they rub their antlers on tree trunks in fall and early winter. Bucks try to remove the velvet, a soft, vascular skin that grows on their antlers, by rubbing them up against trees. Once the velvet is removed, deer sometimes continue to polish their antlers by rubbing up and down on tree trunks.

Deer also rub their antlers on trees during mating season to attract females or to mark their territory, warning other males to stay away. This activity can result in broken branches, torn tree bark and cause extensive damage, sometimes even resulting in the slow death of a tree.

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Although young, smooth barked trees, 1-5 inches in diameter, like maple and birch are most susceptible since they have very thin bark that offers little to no protection from damage; larger, smooth bark trees can also be impacted. The rubbing can shred the tree's bark from 1 foot above the ground to approximately 5 feet.

Once a tree is damaged, especially young trees, the vital transport of nutrients and water essential for the tree's survival can be compromised. Protecting trees from such damage can be critical. Once this type of damage occurs, there is little that can be done to repair the tree. In some instances, damage can kill the tree and removal from the landscape would be necessary.

It is typically recommended to protect trees with a trunk diameter of fewer than 8 inches. Here's a few protective measures you can employ to protect your trees from deer damage, now, during cold winter weather:

  • Tree wraps: Use plastic or wire mesh to cover the main trunk of the tree. Wrap the trunk, covering all exposed bark, from the base of the tree up to the bottom branches. If using wire mesh, don't wrap it too tightly since it can cut into the tree bark. Be sure to remove the wrap in late winter/early spring before the tree begins to bud.
  • Fencing: Although fencing is effective, constructing a fence around trees is time consuming, it can be costly and you'll probably want to remove it come spring, as it can obstruct the tree's natural, aesthetic beauty in your yard.
  • Repellents: There are a number of deer repellent products on the market to deter deer. The Connecticut Department of Forestry tested 9 similar deer repellents and concluded Bobbex Deer Repellent is 93 percent effective in repelling deer, only second to a physical barrier. Bobbex is a topical, all-natural foliar spray, which prevents deer, moose and elk from browsing and damaging ornamental plantings, shrubs and trees.

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Bobbex's active ingredients are a series of proteins that make the product safe for the environment and for use on even the most sensitive foliage. Active ingredients include putrescent eggs, garlic, fish oil, meat meal, clove oil, and other natural, safe ingredients. The product mimics predator scents, which deer have an aversion to and is classified as a fear repellent, but it also tastes bad to deer, adding another layer of protection. Because it contains highly effective sticking agents, it won't wash off, even in harsh winter weather. When treating trees with Bobbex Deer, treat from the tree's base to approximately five feet or up to the bottom branches.

If you haven't already begun protecting your trees and see damage to them, trim off any loose, shredded bark that is no longer connected tightly to the trunk and prune back any broken branches. Smooth edges will heal better than the ragged ones left by rubbing.

If undeterred, deer can cause substantial damage to your trees. The continued use of Bobbex Deer repellent can help ensure deer learn to leave your yard alone throughout the winter and all year long. For more information, please visit:


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