Deer damaged apple tree. Advice?

Hi, friends. This second leaf Roxbury Russet took a bit of a beating from the deer.

Besides keeping them from coming back, is there anything I should I do to help this tree heal? Trim the bark? Seal the wound? Leave it alone? I’ve heard conflicting things about what helps and what doesn’t …Is there hope for this tree?

Thanks in advance.





Probably will live if you do nothing, but it’s lifespan may be shortened…but unless it a standard or simi-standard tree, it’s not going to live forever anyhow.

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I think it’ll heal over pretty quickly, especially as young as it is. Big thing is to keep it protected from further damage.

City put in a nice yellow locust on the boulevard next door and the deer beat it up pretty thoroughly all the way around. They ended up replacing that one, but I think what really killed it was lack of water!


Thank you. It’s on M111 rootstock.

Sorry about your young tree. Frustrating!
I’ve had as much damage from bucks rubbing their antlers on young tree bark. It healed pretty quickly. I think your tree will do OK.

I would use a sharp scissors or something to trim off the worst of the fibers that are sticking out. They might rot and I don’t think they have a function. I would not trim into the trunk however.

Sealants are discouraged now. They are not shown to be helpful. They might even cause harm.

Also, if it doesn’t heal (but I think it will), it looks like you have buds above the graft that can replace the tree. Those should grow really fast if the top is lost.

By e way, when I say “heal” it doesn’t really heal like skin does. Instead, the tree grows new tissue that closes over the wound and seals it shut, then continues to grow new bark. Eventually, there is no visible damage and the tree has also sealed the damaged area on the inside as well.


I’ve been experimenting with deer protection, including having a few trees unprotected. Deer can completely de-bark a young tree from 1-3’ literally overnight. Happens here second half of October, right before the rut. And chomp every reachable bud and twig over the course of a winter.

And then the vole hord descends…


The main problem is if they come back and get the bark from the other side too… if there is no bark for the nutrients to flow up through the tree will die. I had a tree hit pretty bad a few weeks ago (worse than yours) and I put a stake on the un-touched side really close, so the deer could not scrape it

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Good point. They did take strips from both sides, but there is still a decent amount of intact bark between the two spots where it was rubbed. I’m sure I can’t afford to lose that! I reapplied repellent. Not sure if that will be enough.

Very grateful for everyone’s input! Sounds like encouraging news overall. Now I just need to get a handle on the danged varmints…

Repellent will not work. You need to put a cage around your trees 5 feet high. That buck will probably be back within a few days.


Anna, If you are in a rural area…any possibility of a LARGE outdoor dog? Randy/GA

I feel like that would create more problems than it solves - and we already have a pack of coyotes hanging around anyway, but thank you for the suggestion. :slight_smile:

@AnnaBee, there are discussions on growing fruit regarding deer issues. Here is one: My deer rant - #6 by SteveM

also: How to deter deer from fruit trees

My favorite suggestion was to get a pride of lions. I think that would also help keep the neighbor’s kids out.

For buck rubbing off bark, I wrap chicken wire or similar around the trunk. That does not stop browsing on leaves but does help save bark.

A tube of chicken wire from ground to about 5 feet high should also save bark from voles and rabbits. Lions would also help with rabbits but I think voles are too small for lions to bother with.


Anna, Since we now have such a large population of coyotes here in my area of Georgia the deer population has decreased markedly so the coyotes may be helping in an indirect way?
The chicken wire sounds very doable btw. Good luck. Randy/GA
p.s. we dont have lions here in Georgia so no comment on them

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