Dale Dawson, conservation foreman at Lewis & Clark Recreation Area, plants more than 150 new trees in an average year at the state park. He’s motivated to find deer protection for the young trees and so far the tree guard he developed has worked.
Materials per tree are three 5-foot fence posts, length of 4 feet welded wire fence cut in half lengthwise, roll of flexible wire to hold fence to the posts and tree staking wire and short sections of garden hose if needed.
Once the tree is planted, he adds chipped wood mulch in about a two-foot radius or so around the tree.
“We set the fence posts just inside the outer edge of the mulch,” Dawson said. Mowers can circle the edge of the mulch and not disturb the post.
He fashioned a cylinder of 2-foot wire that fitted just inside the three posts at the right height for the individual tree so deer can’t get under or over the fence to get at the tree. The average placement of the fence cylinder is about 2 1/2 feet above the tree base. This allows for top dressing the mulch in the spring.
Before he set the posts, he made sure the wire cylinder is the right circumference so that the individual tree has room to move with the wind inside the wire tube without damaging its bark. He said allowing the trees to move with the wind helps strengthen the trunk from snapping off in the future. If staking is needed, he adds the bark friendly lengths of garden hose to the wire and secures them to the posts. He removes stakes after a year.
“Deer guards are holding up well to deer damage. It adds about $15 to the cost of the tree but the materials are reusable. When the course bark develops on the tree deer don’t bother the tree anymore we can remove the guard. Favorites for deer damage are young maple trees,” he said. Mature trees are a valuable resource in the park. The cost/benefit ratio is well worth protecting the new trees.
“For regular sleeve tree protectors, deer have slid them up to rub the trunks during rut causing damage and even killing the tree. The sleeves help if rabbits and rodents try to girdle the tree,” Dawson said. These tree guards are throughout the park.