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The Dangers Of Damaged Bark And What To Do About It


Usually, our forest friends are behind the destruction. The marks on the bark of a tree are your clue to the animal causing the damage. Rodents are notorious tree-destroyers. For non-climbers, like rabbits, you’ll only see teeth marks on the bark as high as the animal can reach. Burrowing animals like voles and gophers will chow down on lower bark and roots. Squirrels are the most difficult nemesis, as they operate higher in the tree. It’s difficult to deter a squirrel. If you notice missing bark higher up, think deer or bear. Bears strip bark off the trees as high as 3 to 5
feet up the trunk.

A Department of Agriculture report stated that a bear could strip 70 trees in one day. Deer will eat bark, especially on young trees. They will also rub their antlers, stripping away the outer bark. The biggest concern is when the bark damage results in girdling. Girdling is when the tree has been stripped of bark in a ring all the way around the trunk. If this occurs, regardless of where or how small the ring is, the tree is in jeopardy. Girdling, or ring-barking, causes the tree to be unable to nourish or grow beyond that point. While a tree professional may be able to help you save the tree, it’s an uphill battle.

Prevention is the answer to damaged bark. You can buy all sorts of repellents, motion-detector lights or buzzers, traps, and poisons. The repellents, lights, and buzzers are minimal deterrents and pretty much a waste of money. Not only do the animals get used to them, but you’ve given yourself another chore to do: You must replace the repellents at least weekly and check the lights/buzzers to be sure they work. Trapping any animal can be tricky. It may be best to get the help of a wildlife expert.

Poisons are an unwise choice. Not only could there be laws in your area, preventing their use, but you may inadvertently harm other animals, pets, or even children. Don’t use poisons. The solution is twofold: flawless property maintenance and physical barriers. Property maintenance means keeping your grass mowed, including around trees. In the winter, you might need to shovel away snow from the tree. You’re trying to make it easy for predator animals like hawks, foxes, and weasels to see the rodents and go after them, naturally easily. Avoid woodpiles that the rodents can scurry under for protection and then return to feast on your tree’s bark. Remove bird feeders and trash that might attract animals. Consider a fence around your property, and let your dog mark the area, as both your dog and its urine can be deterrents.

To stop serious damage to the bark on your trees, you need to protect the bark, at least during the winter months when food is scarce. The outer bark covers the tasty inner bark, so any break in the bark makes the tree more vulnerable. Physical barriers include wire (up to the height of where you see damage), hardware cloth (basically a roll of wire with a mesh with tiny holes), or a tree/trunk wrap. The important thing is that the covering has openings too small for a rodent to chew through. Note: Remove these from the tree during the summer months when forest food is plentiful.

Posted on January 27, 2021

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