How do I repair a young tree damaged by a rutting buck?

Cathy Olney
by Cathy Olney

I had a buck rub off a lot of bark on a young sweet gum tree. He rubbed off the outer bark almost a foot long and got to the inner bark in about a 5-6 inch area.

  4 answers
  • Sally-Charles Evans Sally-Charles Evans on Feb 18, 2019

    My grandfather used to get some oil based paint to coat any places where the bark has been removed. His trees were beautiful.

  • Wrap the tree, here is how!

  • Em Em on Feb 20, 2019

    Trees are capable of healing a surprising amount of damage on their own. Avoid the temptation to use a wound dressing. It may make you feel better -- like putting a Band-Aid on the wound -- but it can actually interfere with the tree's ability to heal itself. The best practice is to use a sharp knife, such as a grafting knife, to cut off jagged pieces of bark around the edge of the wound. If you can trim the wounds into an elliptical or football shape oriented vertically on the trunk, it will help the tree recover more quickly. Do not dramatically enlarge a wound to accomplish this, though. Just clean up the edges as best as you can because they will heal easier than the ragged damage left by the buck's antlers. It is possible that this buck will come back to rub on your tree again, so it is important to take steps to protect it. You should surround the tree with a sturdy fence or barrier that can keep a determined deer away from the tree trunk. A 6-foot-tall barrier of welded wire mesh, supported by 8-foot-tall rebar pounded into the ground at regular intervals around the circumference is a reliable way to keep bucks from rubbing on young trees. Another option is corrugated plastic drainpipe that has been slit along its length and placed around the trunk. You can also purchase ornamental metal grates designed for this purpose. They are more expensive but much more attractive. While deer repellents can help prevent deer browsing, they are not very effective in controlling buck rubs.

  • Landsharkinnc Landsharkinnc on Feb 20, 2019

    Follow EM's advice --- spot on!