By Cheryl Conley, TWRC Wildlife Center
I happened to notice one of the small trees I planted this spring was laying on the ground. Upon further examination of the other small trees in my yard, I noticed the trunks had been slightly damaged. You know what that means, don’t you? The deer are in rut! The rut is the mating season of deer. During rut testosterone levels increase and both behavioral and physiological changes can be observed. Usually quite docile, bucks become more aggressive and can be seen sparring. Their muscle mass increases, sperm production rises and scent gland activity increases.
The majority of biologists believe the reason deer rub their antlers on trees is to remove the velvet which is a hair-like membrane that covers the antlers. The removal of the velvet allows the antlers to dry and harden and make better weapons when sparring with other bucks. Others believe that the scent and damage left on trees are a way of communicating with other bucks and does. Some suggest that rubs are made during a mock fight and helps the buck to strengthen its neck muscles in preparation for sparring with other bucks. Whatever the reason, during rut trees and shrubs can suffer light to heavy damage.
Never fear. There are solutions to help protect your trees. Vinyl tree guards are available as well as deer fencing. Big Box stores sell 10 foot lengths of 4-inch plastic drain pipe which works great. It’s best to use the perforated type. Measure from the ground to the first branch and cut the pipe to the correct length. You will then need to make a vertical cut the entire length of the piece. Simply spread the pipe apart, a little at a time, and put it around your tree. You can also use tree wraps as well as repellant sprays but I’m not sure how well these options will work for you.
Even we self-described animal lovers can become frustrated when our property is damaged. As the human population grows and humans encroach even further into animal habitats, conflicts with wildlife are sure to increase. Wildlife and people will always have to share space and resources. Just remember that the animals you see in your backyards are not trespassing—actually they were there first. We must learn to live in harmony with them as every being serves a purpose on this earth.
A quick reminder that deer are very active right now and more car accidents with deer occur during the next couple of months than any other time of year. Slow down, watch for darting deer and if you see one, you know there are more close by.
For more information on how to live in harmony with wildlife, contact TWRC Wildlife Center at 713-468-TWRC.