It's early fall, and the deer mating season is fast approaching. It’s time to protect your young trees. During the fall, male deer (bucks) scrape trees to scrape the velvet off of their antlers, but mainly to mark their territory and intimidate other bucks with the scent they leave behind.
A tree may be scraped by more than one deer as they come upon a previously scraped tree, to leave their own mark. These scrapes can cut through the thin bark down to the wood, cutting off the cambium of trees down to the wood. If enough bark is scraped off, it can kill the tree by cutting off the tissue that carries fluid and nutrients from the leaves to the roots and vice versa. It also opens up the tree to possible disease infection.
Trees with soft, smooth bark are especially prone to significant damage. If as little as 1/3 of the tree’s circumference is removed, it can start a slow death for the tree. Younger trees’ bark is typically thinner and smoother, so it is especially important to protect them. Both deciduous and evergreen trees may be scraped.
The easiest way to protect your tree is to put a tree guard around the lower four feet of the trunk. The best tree guard is one that allows air to circulate around the trunk, such as the one pictured. A flexible mesh deer guard is highly recommended, and the sooner you can get it on the tree, the better. They are are available online and in many hardware and garden stores.