Animals may chew on tree bark during the winter, usually in an effort to get at the inner layers of bark for a winter feeding. Deer may also rub their antlers on trunks to remove the velvet. Extensive bark damage can kill a tree.
1. Mulch Management
Mulch that is set right up against the trunk of a tree can be a rodent attractant. The pests will take cover in the mulch, while the nearby underlayers of the tree bark will provide a food source. You may not even notice the damage because it is hidden beneath the mulch layer. Pull back any mulch so it doesn't rest right up against the tree trunk.
2. Fencing Options
A wire mesh fence around a tree trunk can protect from a variety of animals. Mesh needs to be tightly woven enough to keep small animals out and tall enough to prevent deers from chewing off tree bark or rubbing their antlers against the tree. A fence can also prevent rabbits and other small animals from nibbling on the bark. Just make sure that the fence is tall enough so that animals won't easily reach over it when snow mounds up against it.
3. Ground Damage
Fencing may not be enough if the animals that are destroying the trees are able to dig under the fence. For example, rodents and rabbits are notorious for doing this. You can bury the mesh fencing several inches into the ground to prevent an animal from digging. Take care not to damage any of the tree's roots when installing the fence.
4. Tree Wrap
There are many alternatives to fencing, which can be easier to apply and are often a better option if you have multiple trees to protect. Plastic tree wrap tubes are split up on one side, so you can easily slip them around the trunk. They come in a variety of heights so you can protect both short trunks of newly planted trees and taller trunks.
5. Branch Concerns
Squirrels can pose a challenge if they begin to strip the bark off of the larger branches in the tree. You can try to use a repellent, that is applied directly to the wood, but these don't always work on squirrels. The other option is to wrap the affected branches before the damage becomes too severe. This can be difficult and time-consuming and is a task best reserved for main branches.
Contact a tree service company if you are having ongoing issues with animal damage to your trees.