Protecting tree seedlings from deer
By Kyle Asplund, Itasca County SWCD
With scent/fear-based browse repellants such as Plantskydd becoming the “new wave” in animal browse repellants, Mike Oja and I set out last fall to see if the large move from bud caps to Plantskydd is the right move. We decided to try a small study on one small tree planting. Keep in mind that this was only one trial in one location of Itasca County. The location was a 5 acre upland area near Smith Lakes with a very high concentration of deer.
The location has had a history of browse even when trees have been protected with bud caps. The trial was comprised of 260 two year old White Pine split into two blocks. Block #1 consisted of 130 White Pine that were bud capped in the fall of 2007. Block #2 consisted of 130 White Pine that were treated with one application of Plantskydd at the same time in fall of 2007. Any previous browse on the trees was taken into account.
Follow-up was done in early May of 2008. The results were as follows: 5% of White Pine terminal buds that were treated with Plantskydd were found to be browsed; whereas, 75% of the White Pine terminal buds that were bud capped were found to have been browsed. Many of the bud caps were found to be lying on the ground (pulled off) or actually eaten through. It was clear in this situation that the Plantskydd outperformed the bud capping.
Even though this was just an informal study, it has convinced this one landowner to use Plantskydd next year. This trial compared the effectiveness of bud capping to Plantskydd; however, there are also other animal browse repellents on the market today such as taste/smell based chemicals (Bitrex) and physical barriers such as fence or shelters. These products have also been proven to be effective and may be taken into consideration in high browse situations as well. In the end every browse situation must be taken into consideration by itself to determine what is best for that particular site for that particular tree.
This article appeared in the September 2008 issue of Itasca Woodlands. It is reprinted here with permission. For much more information on protecting your seedlings from deer, visit the section on protecting your seedlings on our Tree Planting page, which has links to two other repellant studies. You can also read about protective tree shelters in this discussion thread.
What has worked, or not worked, to keep the deer off of your seedlings?