A big buck scraped his antlers on my tree this winter. Is there anything I can do, and will it survive?


Once the damage is done, there isn't much you can do to help the tree. It's mostly wait and see at that point. Survival depends on the size of the tree and the extent of damage. If the scrape is just on one side, the tree will probably live but it will be weaker on that side and will and probably lose some leaves or branches. Prune any damaged branches and carefully trim away any loose bark. The wound will heal over time but there will be a scare. If the scrape is all the way around, the tree is girdled, and will not make it.

If there are deer in the area, there is a chance that a buck will scrape his antlers on trees. They usually target 1-4" diameter trees with smooth bark, or young soft wooded evergreens. A deer's antlers grow velvet over the summer. In the fall, during the rut, bucks scrape antlers on trees to rub the velvet off, to show dominance and to mark territory. In the late winter, they rub to help shed antlers.

Other than erecting an 8-10ft fence around your property, wrapping the trunks of small trees in fall and winter is the best method of protection. Tree guards can be purchased at garden centers, or you can wrap with chicken wire or hardware mesh. Paper wrap is cheaper but it can be worn through by deer rubbing. Vinyl spiral wraps and corrugated plastic tubes are more effective protection, but heavy rubbing on them can still damage the bark underneath. The more solid wraps also offer protection from sunscald in the winter. You can also try staking 1 or 2 light weight steel posts around the tree trunk to make it more difficult for the deer.

Tree Wraps: Wrap all of the exposed bark on the trunk from the base up to the bottom branches. Be sure to remove the wrap before the tree leafs out in Spring.