Deer Damage to Commercial Forestry/ Native Woodlands

Poor deer management in a forestry area can cause deer damage to commercial forestry and our native woodlands. The main types of damage are Fraying, Browsing, Bark- Stripping, Bole-Scoring and Leader-Shoot damage.

damage are Fraying

Fraying -

Species - All Deer (male).

Time of the Year - Mainly August to November with a lesser outbreak in spring.

Description - male deer rubbing their antlers (and facial scent glands) against tree stems and foliage cause Fraying. This is mostly a form of sexual aggression or territory - marking which occurs during the build up to the rut. Fraying is recognized, on close examination, by the presence of hairs in and around the damage, also by accompanying broken and twisted side-branches and associated scrapes on the ground. Fraying is frequently found near to places where deer come into the open, also on aromatic trees or trees with a different scent from the main crop, and this fortunately results in scrub trees (e.g. Willow, Birch, Rowan) outside the commercial crop being selected if present. The species of deer responsible can usually be distinguished as follows:

Fallow: thicker stems (75mm) up to 1.2m, thrashed stems to 2m.

Sika: similar height to Fallow; in some populations, areas of severe bole-scoring recorded on mature trunks up to 300mm diameter, especially Spruce.

Red: thick stems with severe damage to branches and tops, no scrapes associated.

Comment - Although often the most conspicuous form of deer damage, fraying is usually the least serious


Browsing -

Species - All deer (also sheep).

Time of the Year - Peak of damage January - May, while other food is scarce and buds and growing shoots are most tender. Can occur at all times of the year.

Description - Browsing is the nibbling of the buds and shoots of newly established trees, in particular, for food. Trees browsed by deer often develop multi-leaders, or in severe cases come to resemble clipped miniature bushes. Vulnerability to browsing is mainly relative to the amount of other browse available, but species preferred for stripping are also preferred for browsing, and browsing is also more likely to occur soon after planting and in certain sites, e.g. trees planted in clearing to which deer have become accustomed to grazing, slopes which remain clear of snow in winter, young plantations surrounded by thick-stage crop where deer can shelter. It is essential to be able to distinguish deer browse from sheep.

Comment - Browsing is not as obvious as stripping or fraying, but builds up during the early years of a plantation, and becomes a severe form of damage when it prevents an adequate percentage of leading shoots growing beyond the reach of deer.

In some areas browsing imposes a 2-4 year delay on the time taken by Sitka Spruce to grow beyond reach, greater delays could have serious economic consequences. Browsing of side shoots is not a significant form of damage. Prevention is achieved by adequate culling policy and forest design.

Bark-Stripping - Species - All Deer

Time of Year - Usually most severe January- March. Also with Sika deer it can often occur in the autumn.

Description - Bark-stripping occurs when deer shave off tree-bark with their lower teeth for food. The broad parallel teeth-marks are often clearly visible, running more or less vertically. Thicket-stage plantations are often worst attacked, but damage may occur on any tree from around seven years onwards. Highly vulnerable species are Norway Spruce, Lodgepole Pine (especially thicket stage) and most hardwoods (especially young Elm). Douglas and Silver Firs, Lawson Cypress, Hemlock and young Sitka Spruce, Scotts Pine and Larch may also be damaged. Brashing of any tree species increases vulnerability.

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