Damage Caused By Deer
Deer can cause serious damage to newly planted seedlings and established trees. When they browse the buds, they reduce growth rates; nipping the tree at the base can create multiple stemmed trees; and bucks rubbing their antlers on the stems can kill the tree entirely. If deer are numerous where a landowner wants to establish new trees, or protect existing trees, there are several options available.
By far the most effective methods involve fencing off the desired trees and eliminating the chances for deer to come in contact with them. However, fencing is expensive and if not constructed properly, deer can jump over them and continue to destroy the trees.
A very effective method to protect deciduous trees from rabbits, deer, and mechanical injuries are the use of Tree Tubes. The tubes are a 4-foot tall, translucent polyethylene cylinder which allow enough light transmission to reach the seedling, but are a thick enough to prevent injuries from such things as rabbits, deer browsing and rubbing, and mechanical injuries from weed eaters or lawnmowers that often occur to seedlings and small diameter trees. While tree tubes are designed for use on deciduous trees, they are not to be used on shrubs or evergreen seedlings.
Establishing "cages", similar to tomato cages, around individual trees are another option for landowners. Cages can be created by using heavy screen, welded wire or similar material, and must be tall enough that deer cannot reach over the tops of the cages to browse the tips of the trees. The cages can be held in place by utilizing metal fence posts and either zip tying them to the posts are simply weaving the cage over the post. Depending of the number needed, this too can be an expensive method. Cages must be eventually removed or the tree will become girdled and die from growing into the cage.
Commercial tree tubes are also available. They come in varying heights and are generally made of either a mesh material or a hard plastic. They are designed to fit over the seedling, encasing it entirely, but are made out a material that allows light to penetrate through so the seedling can live. Tubes of at least 4-5 feet in height are needed if they are to protect from deer. Prices generally are $4-5 per tube.
Repellents are another method of protection. By placing unpleasant odors around trees, deer will tend to stay away from them. Repellents are by far less expensive than cages or tubes. Several different types of repellants are available, including human hair, bars of soap, commercial sprays, and even hot sauce. Repeated applications are required to maintain effectiveness.
Scare devices may also be used to deter deer from being around a landowners planting site. These devices include strobe lights, dogs, and loud noises such as propane cannons or fireworks. Most of these devices work only on a short term time frame. Deer become used to the noises and once they discover they are not hurt by these devices, they move back into the area and continue to create damage.