The Best Way to Heal a Deer Damaged Tree

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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Dave has written since 2007. He gardens on an acre and a half where he raises his 4 children. He enjoys growing vegetables, herbs, and propagating plants. Dave has a side business growing and selling heirloom vegetables and herb plants through Blue Shed Gardens and works as a real estate agent in Spring Hill, TN.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. I have some trees with similar damage. I didn't realize what was causing it. Now I do thanks to you. I had a tree damaged by mowing and trimming and possibly the deer also. It was huge and involved about a third of the girth of a mature tree. I put a flower bed around it so no more damage could occur from machines. It has been five years since we moved here and it has almost completely healed itself.

  2. Hi Dave, such good news that your favorite tree is healing. Hope it grows quickly to become all it can be. We had similar damage from a fallen pine limb on forest pansy. I thought it was a goner for sure, but the wound is healing and the tree never looked better. The damage is very like what you show in the first picture. The best thing to do is neaten the cut and then wait. I have been known to spray bug spray on the wound, but it probably isn't necessary and would wash off in the rain anyway.

  3. I'm so glad your trees are healing by themselves. It's heartbreaking to lose a plant. Thank goodness we don't have the deer problem here in my garden.

  4. I enjoyed your photos and info, Dave. I'll keep this in mind should this ever happen to us, however, I haven't had the problem as yet–and we do get deer (who eat my plants.argh.) I have seen trees just like yours and never really gave much thought as to what might have happened.

  5. Most bucks, after scraping a tree, will return to scrape again. After the initial scrape, they leave a scent on the tree with makes the tree attractive for other male deer to rub and mark their territory. So it is important to ensure that the tree is sufficiently protected before another male deer make's it's way back.

    Also, if you are looking for an environmentally friendly way of deterring deer, try BuckBeGone's Buck Bio-Balls! Made of environmentally friendly materials that will not damage your plants, the Buck Bio-Balls are simple to hang and provide up to 6 months worth of protection (seasonal protection)! Check them out at


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