Animals can be hard on trees. Deer, rabbits and mice are the main concerns when it comes to landscape trees. Deer can kill younger trees by chewing on bark or branch tips, or by rubbing on young trunks and uprooting newly planted trees. Rabbits and mice are attracted to the bark, which they nibble on. If they damage the bark too extensively, a tree won't be able to recover. The following tips can help you protect your trees from animals.
Tip #1: Clean up around the tree
Fallen leaves can provide bedding for rodents, which puts them in close proximity to the tree. Make sure your rake up any leaves from around the tree each fall. For fruit producing trees, even those considered ornamental like crabapples, make sure you clean up the fruit as it drops so it doesn't entice deer and other animals to the yard. Finally, take the time to remove all the twigs and branches after trimming the tree. Once again, this debris can provide cover to small rodents as they feed on the tree bark.
Tip #2: Be mindful of how you mulch
Mulch is very beneficial to trees. Especially to young ones since it suppresses weeds and helps conserve moisture. Unfortunately, mulch is also the perfect bedding for bark nibbling animal pests. When laying the mulch, pull it back from the tree trunks so there is at least a 3-inch space between the trunk and the mulch. This way you can spot the beginnings of potential damage before it becomes too severe.
Tip #3: Guard the tree trunks
If the bark is the main concern, then a simple tree wrap may be all you need to keep desperate animals from nibbling the bark during the winter months. You can wrap trunks with burlap in the fall and then remove it in spring before the temperatures begin to rise too high. Some rodents and rabbits will chew through burlap, though. If this is a problem, wrap some metal mesh around the trunks. If deer are pushing over young trees or nibbling the tender tips of low branches, you may need to erect a fence around the tree. Place the fence a few feet out from the trunk and make it about 5 feet high so the deer can't reach over it. You can remove the fence once the tree is taller.
Tip #4: Fix damage promptly
You can often save a tree if you act quickly. For bark damage, clean up the ragged edges of the bark with a clean, sharp knife by trimming them into smooth lines. The bark can heal more quickly from clean cuts versus ragged chewing. If branches have been damaged. Trim the branches back to the nearest undamaged wood. If you need more help fixing a damaged tree or protecting the trees from wildlife, contact a tree service (such as Johnson's Tree Service & Stump Grinding) in your area.