How to stop bucks from rubbing their antlers against new-planted laurels?

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by Nate Day, Dec 8, 2019.

  1. Nate Day

    Nate Day New Member

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    How do I stop male deer from destroying my newly-planted laurel hedges? I planted close to 100 in September, in large part thanks to the advice I got here. But this fall bucks did considerable damage to many of the trees by rubbing their antlers against the trunks, in many cases ripping off most of the branches and in other cases stripping off all the bark on stretches of the trunk. One tree had the top 18" snapped off.

    I understand that a solid 8 to 12 foot tall fence would be the best solution but I don't have the budget for that and in any event bylaws limit fences to 4 ft high. Any advice? I tried repellent but that didn't work (more multiple reasons). I've read that some people wrap trees in burlap but that seems more aimed at preventing eating not rubbing. I'm thinking of putting up a fairly simple 4 ft high rail fence (examples: www.pinterest.ca/dat1954/deer-fences/) with either two or three rails, the idea being that bucks are more likely to rub the fence than hop over and rub the hedges although this might be wishful thinking. The appeal of a rail fence is that it's the least expensive per linear foot and more horizontal rails can always be added if needed. Of course, the real problem is the 4 ft height limit (the municipality might approve a variance, too soon to say).

    FWIW, there's about 40 hedges at risk.

    Frustrating because I did a considerable amount of research on hedge choices and it was a major selling feature of the laurels that deer don't eat them. I never read anything about the risk to new trees of deer and tree rub.

    Any advice or thoughts?
     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Fencing and repellent spraying are your only passive options. Otherwise it's having dogs on duty, engaging hunters or going out at 2 in the morning and chasing them off yourself. And some deer living in developed neighborhoods may just move away a short distance, continue their activities when approached on foot (by unarmed persons not doing any shooting).
     
  3. Margot

    Margot Contributor

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    I have had success for many years now with a fence made of 6-foot-tall, heavy black plastic netting attached to metal posts set every 6 to 8 feet. It is relatively inexpensive if you install it yourself. https://bennersgardens.com/ Six feet may not be high enough for every situation especially when deer can take a run before jumping. However, deer won't jump over anything that prevents them from seeing where they will land so 6 feet should be enough to accomplish that. Your main goal is to protect the hedge until it gets to be 5 or 6 feet tall.

    I had a similar experience when I planted a Leyland Cypress (Cupressus x leylandii) hedge that the deer shredded a few months later. I replaced it with Smaragd cedars (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’) and a 4-foot fence.

    Using repellant spray may work but I find that deer attack shrubs such as Rhododendrons and Skimmia that they wouldn't otherwise eat.

    In any case, rutting season is over for this year so you have time to consider your best options for protecting your hedge until it can protect itself.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 9, 2019
  4. bjo

    bjo Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi,
    Iam not sure that this will help ...but my experience.
    Ive had this problem and deer browsing damage with young trees (various species) in Portugal. Deer proof fencing was not possible/practical. I have tried 2 different protection methods.
    1. Making a loose cylindrical fence of 'chicken wire' around the tree and hanging it off the lowest branch or lowest 2 branches. I have used 1m/1.5m height cylinders ( ~39" / 59")
    2. Spiralling cut bramble stems around the trunk and tying the ends to the trunk with twine (allowing expansion of the trunk) (bramble =blackberry = Rubus fruticosus)
    None of the trees i have protected have been damaged. I imagine that the surface is too rough or too unsteady (loose chicken wire) to make a good rubbing surface.
    The chicken wire is OK where there is a clean trunk and fairly clean ground under the tree, but the bramble method is easier for me on the rough sloping ground i have and when the tree has branching low to the ground. Also the brambles are free for me whilst you need quite a lot of chicken wire per tree (~50cm =20inches).

    boa sorte
    brian
     
  5. Nate Day

    Nate Day New Member

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    Hi everyone, thanks for your replies. I'm in a tough spot since the threat to the hedges only exists for roughly 6 weeks out of the year - that's 12% - but I'm still paying 100 cents on the dollar to sink the posts in concrete and run the rails. So what's the 12% solution?

    Maybe I could build frames that I set up in early October and take down in late November...built out of 2x3 maybe, 4' x 8' frame with chicken wire stretched over. Attached to some 2x2 stakes that I set up and take down every year. Or sink t-posts and stretch wire over them each fall - ugly but much much cheaper than the quotes I'm starting to get for permanent fencing. Maybe getting a dog and training it to be a guard dog isn't such a crazy idea. I'm at a loss.
     
  6. Margot

    Margot Contributor

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    Hi Nate - going out on a limb here but I don't think this will be an ongoing problem. Deer often target new plants in the landscape so your hedge should become less of a novelty as the years go by. As the shrubs grow and the branches thicken, they will hopefully be able to fend off occasional attacks. So long as the deer don't acquire a taste for the leaves, I think you might expect less vandalizing in the future.

    Hopefully, your short term strategies to protect the hedge will pay off in a few years.
     
  7. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Well-Known Member

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    i am with margot prev poster ---- plus we have old laurel I wish the dear deer would eat.
    laurels grow really big and gangly and - lifetime maintenance - and important to prune early and annually otherwise you do get all the gaps and so forth

    anyway - don't overthink it w engineering - thoughts .... put something up til those plants are established - and keep it up as long as everyone is safe.

    from what I observe, it really seems that deer will not leave a place they have always had ---- for many generations. Think of those old trails that are so visible in the dry side of BC (Okanagan)

    I was looking at a predictable conventional cedar hedge nr Vancouver recently - and it is untouched ---- yet I know of others in deer-walk distance that are well pruned up to about 5 feet tall - then the cedars fluff out. Yet I know there are feral deer in both places (the untouched and the touched cedar hedges)

    ps --- dog life expenses are more than a one-time fence
    I think those darn deer - for all the damage ICBC and others pay for them - are not in a homeowner policy whereas a deer-alert dog might need to be named in policy (and it's illegal for dogs to harass wildlife in BC law) This is old posting from BC Gov - however it still stands today PUBLIC ASKED TO CONTROL DOGS CHASING WILDLIFE

    hope it works out and do keep us up-dated as I think many in the urban interface are dealing with similar concern.
     
  8. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    I was looking at a predictable conventional cedar hedge nr Vancouver recently - and it is untouched ---- yet I know of others in deer-walk distance that are well pruned up to about 5 feet tall - then the cedars fluff out. Yet I know there are feral deer in both places (the untouched and the touched cedar hedges)

    They don't go for Thuja plicata like they do for T. occidentalis
     
  9. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Well-Known Member

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    Thuja plicata is the conventional tree native cedar here at the coast?

    This is an interesting point you make Ron - because since these topics arose recently in past few months in forum (a function of suburbanization ?!) ... I have been taking casual survey of hedges in my travels around the Lower Mainland (Great Vanc)

    Now if safe convenient I will look at the needle pattern of uneaten vs eaten .
     
  10. Margot

    Margot Contributor

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    Segueing a bit from the original topic of this post - How to stop bucks from rubbing their antlers against new-planted laurels? - to a more general comparison of hedging choices in deer country, I have some experience to share.

    Thujia plicata: Even though these beautiful, native trees are deer-resistant, here on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Thuja plicata are dying everywhere because of our increasingly dry summers so a hedge of this species would require dedicated watering not to mention, pruning.

    Thujia occidentalis
    : Includes the extremely popular Smaragd (Emerald Cedar) which requires regular watering and is not deer-resistant. As Georgia Strait points out, they "are well pruned (due to deer browsing) up to about 5 feet tall - then the cedars fluff out."

    Cupressocyparis leylandii (Leyland Cypress): Very popular because they are attractive, deer-resistant and quite drought-tolerant but, because they grow very quickly, require pruning at least once a year.

    Theoretically, other plants could be used as perimeter barriers to deer but any I can think of would require a lot of space . . . Rosa nootkatensis, rhododendrons, or lilacs for example.

    In my opinion, the only sure way to keep deer out of a garden is a fence.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2019
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