It’s fall, and wild animals are on the move! Whether they’re migrating, gathering food for the upcoming winter, or acting up for mating season, you’re bound to see more wildlife in your back yard. In fact, every species from the tree squirrel to the black bear have been known to investigate our neighborhoods at this time of year.
While we all enjoy the wildlife associated with more natural surroundings, their impact on our landscaping efforts can be severe. Now is the time to act to protect your trees and shrubs from animal damage.
You’ve probably put a lot of time and effort (and probably money) into your landscape. These tips can help ease the pain of fall and winter on your plants, while still enjoying our native wildlife.
Only a small number of animal species will cause significant damage to trees. The animals most likely to cause damage in the Rocky Mountain region include deer, elk, porcupines, beaver, mice, squirrels, gophers, rabbits, and birds.
Fencing is a commonly used method for controlling larger game animals from damaging your trees. Trees can be wrapped individually, or fenced off in groups depending on your needs. While this type of fencing can be expensive, it is an excellent long term solution to tree and garden damage in areas where deer and other large mammals are prevalent. Fencing can be left up year round, or taken down during the summer months where the animals pose less of a threat to smaller trees.
For smaller animals such as rabbits or beaver, individual tree guards or trunk wraps will be more effective. These can be made with wire screen, burlap, or other flexible but heavy duty material that will discourage gnawing or rubbing on the base of the tree.
Antler rubbing of tree bark, broken or damaged branches from eating foliage and tree girdling are among the more commonly seen damage in our area. This damage can leave the tree more susceptible to diseases and insect infestation, as well as stunting the growth and regeneration of the plant.
There are plenty of ready-made repellents available to deter rabbits, deer and mice from feeding on trees. While some contain fungicides, others are loaded with natural predator scents. Discouraging the animals from wanting to be near the tree, or providing an unpleasant taste if they do decide to give it a try.
Repellents should be applied regularly for best results. Rain or snowfall, wind conditions, as well as time break down the effects of any repellent. Apply repellents on a dry day, preferably when the temperature is above freezing.
To control mice or vole damage, coat the base of the plants thoroughly. Rabbits and larger rodents will feed on all parts of the plant so the entire tree should be treated to two to three feet above the snowline if possible. Porcupines and squirrels tend to frequent the higher parts of the tree, and therefore hanging repellents or treating the entire tree may be necessary.
As with most things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! This definitely rings true when it comes to protecting your trees and landscape from wild animals. While most trees will recover from the damage, the visual impacts and stunted growth cycles are irreversible. If you are unsure of how to best protect your trees and shrubs this season, contact your local landscaping professionals for help.
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“The best friend on earth of man is the tree: when we use the tree respectfully and economically we have one of the greatest resources of the earth.”
– Frank Lloyd Wright