You might be used to the sound of your neighbor’s dog barking away, but you may not be used to the sight of your trees’ bark being slowly stripped away. While your neighbor’s dog is likely not to blame, an animal could very well be the culprit. In fact, there are many animals that strip bark off trees. The good news is that Mr. Tree has the solution for you. We’ll let you know which animals to be wary of and how you can keep them from stripping off your tree’s bark.
Identify the Animal
The first step is to try to determine which animal is stripping bark from your trees. If you’re uncertain of the exact culprit, there are clues that will help you narrow down the list of possible suspects. Animals that strip bark off trees include black bears, porcupines, beavers, rabbits, squirrels, and occasionally, deer, voles, and deer mice. If you can’t catch the offender in the act, then closely examine your tree to determine what areas are missing bark. For instance, beavers and rabbits are unable to climb trees, so they’re only able to strip the bark as high as they’re able to reach.
Another thing to be mindful of is the time of year or season that your bark is going missing. Deer, for example, sometimes scrape bark off trees using their antlers during rutting season. Deer rutting season typically begins in mid- to late October and can extend through November. Voles and deer mice typically remove bark from tree trunks during wintertime, usually below the snow line. If you notice once the snow starts to melt that bark has been removed from your trees, those could very well be your perpetrators. Squirrels also generally strip bark during wintertime, usually late in the season.
Using your powers of observation, you can typically determine which animal is to blame. This will help you decide on the best course of action to take. Read on for solutions for dealing with each type of animal.
Voles and Mice
Voles can be captured through the use of mouse traps. You should also pack down the snow as tightly as possible so they don’t have the opportunity to forge a path through the snow to your tree. It’s also a good idea to mow your lawn in late fall to decrease the amount of ground cover that voles will have. Once you mow your grass, you can place bait stations in areas where voles have been prevalent in the past.
Another option is to create a physical barrier between the voles and your trees. One preventative measure involves placing hardware cloth cylinders around the base of young trees. If you take this step, be sure to bury the cylinders three inches below ground level so that the voles can’t burrow underneath them. The cylinders should also be higher than the average snow-line level. You can also put a three-foot bare soil swath around the base of the trees and erect a bare soil strip of at least six feet between your yard and the voles’ native habitat.
Often, black bears are drawn to residential neighborhoods and yards because they’re looking for a food supply. In fact, that’s probably also the reason they’re stripping bark from your trees. One of the first steps to take to prevent black bears from coming to your yard is to remove any bird feeders, trash, or anything else that may be an attractant for black bears.
In the Pacific Northwest, black bears are particularly drawn to Douglas fir trees, especially those ranging in age from 15 to 30 years old. Another thing you can do to stave off black bears is prune your trees. According to this USDA Forest Service report, statistical analysis has revealed that unpruned Douglas fir trees are four times more likely to be damaged than pruned ones. Likewise, unpruned Western hemlock trees are three times more likely to be damaged than their pruned counterparts. This provides yet another reason to perform preventative maintenance on your trees by pruning them consistently.
If porcupines are responsible for the removal of your bark, you can try a number of approaches to keep them at bay. First, you may want to erect a fence around your yard to keep them out. If this option is too cumbersome, consider setting up traps instead. If only a few porcupines are causing your trees damage, then trapping and releasing them a distance of 10 miles or more from your home may help solve the problem. There are also certain repellants you can use to deter porcupines from entering your yard in the first place.
Since beavers are not skilled climbers, erecting a small fence around your trees should do the trick. However, you can also use hardware cloth cylinders just as you would with voles and mice. You may also want to replace the hardware cloth with galvanized, welded wire since it will last longer. If using cylinders, place them about 6 to 12 inches away from the tree’s trunk and at least three feet high.
A small fence or cylinders will work to protect your trees from rabbits as well. You can also wrap your tree’s trunk with commercial trunk wrap or heavy-gauge aluminum foil. Wrap the tree trunk at least three feet high, taking into account where the average snow line falls and adding additional height if necessary. You can also apply a rabbit repellent, particularly in late fall when it’s likely to be most effective.
Though there are many animals that strip bark off trees, there are solutions and steps you can take to keep your trees’ bark intact. We understand that in many cases, you’re probably reading this article because at least one of your trees has already succumbed to the gnawing of one of these animals. If that’s the case, you can still apply these preventative measures in the future. For now, give us a call so that we can help you find an immediate solution. We’ll work to restore the health of your tree and figure out a long-term fix to keep these creatures away!