Wildlife Damage to Trees by:
Squirrels - Porcupines - Woodpeckers and Deer
Occasionally strip bark from a variety of hardwood trees. In some cases the bark is probably eaten or used for nesting material. The reason for bark stripping is not fully understood. During hot dry periods squirrels obtain water from the conductive tissue and sap of the trees. On Live Oak Trees these damage sites will be about an inch or so long and an inch or two square, and some time larger areas exposing the cambium tissue. Often time there will be from one to several evacuation sites. This opens a vector to oak wilt or other diseases and insects also follow to feed on these sites.
Homeowners will often notice small twigs that have fallen of the lawn, driveway of patio. Squirrels are often the culprit, and this damage is evident by the tattered and cut at an angle. The purpose of the twig drop or cutting is to acquire nesting material, sometimes they lose the branches, and some are not a suitable choice for nesting and are discarded. Though this may reduce the vigor and overall appearance of the tree, the overall effect of the tree’s health is not severe.
Porcupines are nocturnal herbivores, and are becoming more common in our area. Their diet varies from buds, flowers, leaves, and small twigs. The most destructive of all the eating habits is they chew through the outer bark of the tree to the edible cambium. This practice usually does not kill the larger trees however, it can severely effect the health of the tree, exposing the wounds to decay. Often times they can literally girdle the bark and cambium and consequently deforming or killing smaller trees.
Woodpeckers and Sapsuckers:
Most woodpeckers feed on living trees or wood boring insects, a variety of other insects, berries, nuts and certain seeds. Sapsuckers, as the name suggests, feed extensively on tree sap as well as insects. The sapsucker makes linear rows of holes, licking sap and then returning to check for insects that take up residence in the holes. Heavy feeding can weaken a tree or open a vector for possible oak wilt exposure. Sapsuckers are legally protected and you cannot harm them. You will have to settle for some enjoyment out of just watching the birds feed.
White Tail Deer:
This graceful animal has absolutely no respect for the property of his human neighbors and posses great athletic ability, making it difficult if not almost impossible to preclude its presents. They leap six-foot fences with ease. They come under the cover darkness to determine what new delicacies have appeared since their last visit and take the greatest of pleasure in nipping off the almost open bud of tomorrow’s blossom or the tender new shoots of your shrubbery.
During spring and summer antlers are growing at an awesome rate, with large buck. If summer forage ranges are in good shape those soft velvet covered antlers grow very well until mid or late August. As the antlers harden and the velvet dries up, bucks will begin to rub in order to remove the dried velvet. Rubbing is often done on small trees or bushes, this is very destructive and can even cause tree mortality. This rubbing can continue on through the rut and on into the winter.