Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Red Maple Saplings are hit hard by White-tailed Deer


During my childhood, the red maple [Acer rubrum] was a common tree in the clay based swampy woods that was part of my playground near my home in the Montreal suburbs; and thus I have some memorable attachment to the species. It also has a very lovely display of fall colour. For that reason I was happy to see one red maple sapling west of the house and it has been attempting for the longest time to grow, but every fall and winter it would get the top nipped off by white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). This is somewhat frustrating since there are so few red maples around. Cutting the top or leader of this tree doesn't kill it but severely stunts its growth. It then has to start over again to find a new leader. The only good thing is that in the mean time it keeps building up its root system in anticipation for a chance to shoot out. Once the tree is about 6 feet tall the leader is harder to reach and it should be safe from deer browsing.

To add to the diversity of this woodlot, in May I bought and planted several dozen young red maples from the Ferguson Forest Centre Nursery in Kemptville, Ontario. Thinking that the deer would have ample supply and variety of greenery for food at this time of year, I didn't bother taking any preventive measures yet to protect these saplings from the deer. Alas on my recent inspection of the new arrivals I was much dismayed to find that at least half of the new saplings have already been munched on and topped by deer as seen in this photo. The satchel is placed in the background to provide contrast.



The deer must really favour and be able to sniff out the red maple since many of them were obscured among other greenery. It was quite surprising how they singled out this particular plant. This is discouraging for the success of red maples in the area since all sapling are threatened this way. Instead other much more successful plants and often undesirable invasives like buckthorn just merrily grow and carpet the area untouched by deer. The deer in this case is its own worst enemy in this mix leaving an undesirable landscape for them as well as me.

I immediately started to protect the trees, and cut strips of Bounce fabric softener sheets which deer don't like and attache them to the top branch, or leader, of what remains of all the new saplings.

For preferred deer foods: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10370_12148-61306--,00.html