Porcupine damage?

doccod(Z5-6 NM)December 20, 2005

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed some small patches of bark nibbled off the trunks of my inch or so diameter fruit tree trunks I planted last spring.

I had previously installed plastic trunk wrap up to about a foot in late fall, and the damage was above the trunk wrap, to about 18" or so. I thought maybe the little cottontails or jackrabbits were standing on their back legs to get to the bark. So I wrapped the trunks up to about 20" and didn't see anymore damage.

I didn't go out and check anything for about a week, and when I went out last Saturday, I found the following:

20 small (18") Austrian Pines either eaten to the ground or

stripped of pine needles and branches.

All 11 of my spring planted fruit trees girdled of bark up to about 50% on the trunks, with branches completely chewed

off 2 feet up the tree.

12ft of spring planted Nanking Cherries cut off at the ground.

I live in a 7000ft Pinion/Juniper habitat, I wouldn't think

Porkies would be very common here. I did see a dead Porkie on a country road here about a year ago. What else would eat

a pine tree?

I now have a previously deactivated electic fence turned back on about 12" to 18" above ground level, and I haven't

seen anymore damage in the last two days.

I assume the pines are toast, but what about the fruit trees? I covered the bark eaten spots with tape (breathable Vet tape for animal wounds), should I paint them with something or just let them try to recover on their own?

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david52 Zone 6

That sounds like deer. Yes, living in the Juniper / whats-left-of-the-Pinion forest, gardeners soon change their opinions of those cute, large eared forest creatures; after a while when you watch "Bambi" with your kids, you start rooting for the forest fire.

They eat Scots pines as well as Austrian Pines, and fruit tree bark and twigs are candy. The only thing that works is to fence them off. There are two theories here, fence off each tree, or fence off the whole place. And at the end of the day, it may well cost about the same. For individual trees, one of the easier ways to do this is buy rolls of "Horse fence", which is a fairly ridged 2" by 4" mesh, 5 feet high, and make a large dia circle around each tree. For the fruit trees, about 6 ft dia, and for the pine trees, you'd need 8 to 10 feet dia. Anything smaller on the fruit trees, the deer will eat the branches off when they get bigger. For the pine trees, my neighbor did his half mile hedge with 6' dia horse fence around his Austrian Pines. when they were 12 years old and 20 feet high, the fence was stunting their growth, and he took it off. The deer killed every single one that winter. I had them eat everything that protruded outside the fence, and I used field fence, with larger openings, and the bucks would hook their horns in it, then strip the tree when they tried to get loose.

After 7 years, I ended up fencing my whole 3 acres, 7 feet high. I now have 20 odd fruit trees that are thriving, and my pine trees grew twice as fast without the browsing. A single serious browsing on a fruit tree will set them back a year. For yours, I'd leave the ones that were chomped on, but I'd also get some replacements, just in case.

Hang in there. Home grown fruit is so much better that its worth all the effort.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 5:48PM
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doccod(Z5-6 NM)

Deer Huh, well I'm sure they wouldn't have any trouble hopping over the fence for the horses, which are in another
pasture right now.

The only puzzling thing is nothing was damaged above 2ft, and there were plenty more branches on the fruit trees higher up. But, I see plenty of mulie's around here even in the daytime, it's all private property and no one hunts the area. I didn't even think to look for tracks.

Yes, it would be cheaper for me to fence off the entire area, it's only about 130'x50'. 3 acres of 7' high fencing, that must of been pricey!

It really makes your heart sink when you see the damage. But if even half of the fruit trees live, I'll be happy.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 8:22PM
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I have treated Porcupine wounds to Spruce/Fir trees for twenty years w/ great success, even if tree bark is girdled. Spray or paint wound with natural shellac. Allow to dry. Apply second coat. This is a natural skin graft which protects the bare corium. Then spray wound w/ a basic dark (black, grey, brown) enamel to protect the corium under the clear shellac from sun damage. Repeat in one year since trunk growth may stretch wound cover.

To date I have NEVER lost a tree from porcupine damage. Try it.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 5:16PM
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Errata: Cambium, not corium. Sorry. kimwal

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 3:01PM
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