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How to Discourage Deer & Rabbits

There are many different ways to discourage deer & rabbits from damaging plants. The primary methods we recommend are Physical Barriers, Repellants, and choosing Plants Not Favored by Deer & Rabbits.

Physical Barriers tend to be the most expensive and time-consuming of the three methods listed. In order for a physical barrier to be effective, it will need to encompass the entire property with no gaps and be at least six feet tall. If you are only looking to protect a few trees, you can place a few stakes in the ground, about a foot from the trunk of the tree, and wrap them with chicken wire, burlap, or any thick fabric material. Plastic or vinyl tree wraps are also effective to prevent deer damage. For vegetable gardens & beds, the best method to prevent damage is to fully enclose the garden with a fence material.

Repellants are not generally as effective as physical barriers, but, when applied properly, can be an easy and clean way to discourage critters from damaging your plants. We recommend using Plantskydd. It is a certified organic, blood-based repellant intended for use on small animals including: deer, rabbits, squirrels, voles and chipmunks. Plantskydd is our “go-to” repellant due to its effectiveness and because it is safe for both plants & animals. For more information about Plantskydd, check out our post about it HERE.

Choosing Plants Not Favored by Deer & Rabbits is the best method to prevent damage to your yard. Not only will you avoid having to deal with damage from these animals, you also won’t have to take measures to set up barriers / spray repellants every year. Check out our page HERE for a full list of plants that deer & rabbits do not prefer.

How to Handle Deer & Rabbit Damage on Trees

In early Spring, check your trees for long wounds on their trunks. If you see damage, you will want to cut off any bark that is not attached to the tree using a sharp blade (Be careful not to cut into the healthy bark that is still attached to the tree). This will allow the tree to have a clean edge to begin healing off of. It is no longer recommended to use any type of wound sealers. The main priority is keeping the wound clean to prevent secondaries from moving in and causing further damage. Once you have cleaned the edge of the wound, the next step is to fertilize the tree. Any type of granular, all-purpose tree fertilizer will work however, we recommend Espoma’s Organic Tree-Tone fertilizer. Do not fertilize the tree in late fall / winter before it goes into dormancy. Instead, clean the wound and wait until spring to fertilize the tree.

Deer damage on trees is very common from early fall to late winter. This is the time of year that deer begin to rub the velvet off their antlers that has accumulated throughout the summer. Male deer will also rub against tree trunks in order to mark their territory and show dominance when they compete with each other for mating.

(Photo by Chicago Botanic Garden)
Image of deer damage on a young tree
(Photo by Bill Peterson)