The Best Way to Heal a Deer Damaged Tree

As you can see from the picture to the left that this tree has taken a beating. Last fall when the deer were out in force a buck decided to rut against several of my favorite trees. Coincidentally they were all young trees that I had planted in the yard including two maples, a dogwood and one of my personal favorite trees a Yoshino Cherry. I was furious. I contemplated a fairly violent solution but it was all talk in my head. Plotting the demise of the deer was not a pleasant thought process. Instead I turned my panicked mind toward finding a way to repair the damage. At one point I actually tried to graft maple bark onto the maple trees. As it turns out that wasn't necessary.
In the end I figured out the best way to repair a deer damaged tree, let Mother Nature take her course. It's hard to just do nothing and let the tree heal but ultimately that's what you have to do. You can help it along a little but cleaning up the rough edges of the cuts with a clean sharp knife and by monitoring the health of the tree so that mold and rot doesn't set in but that's about all you can do. Poultices reportedly help but I suspect that they really could hurt the tree since moisture could creep in and help create an environment that propagates mold and disease.


You can see in the close up picture how well the new bark is closing the damaged area. The new tissue has created a rounded edge that will eventually close up the hold completely. Since it was a young tree the damage should be repaired very fast, maybe even by next year. The two sides will close up then new tissue will form on the outside of those pieces and merge together to create a seamless repair.

If the cambium layer (the cells that transport water through the tree) had been girdled (damaged all the way around the tree) things would not have turned out quite so well. The parts of the tree above the wound would be irrevocably dead. A new tree could grow from below the damage but it would be a long process to turn it into as great of a tree as this Yoshino was.
This fall I will be protecting all my young trees with a plastic mesh to prevent deer from rubbing against the trunks. I won't be caught unprepared this year!

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