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Deer Damage to Evergreens

By Cleveland Van Cecil ; Updated September 21, 2017
Cute ... but deadly to an evergreen

During the winter, deer get hungry, and the evergreen tree is a delectable treat in the harsh landscape. Deer damage evergreens by eating the bark, rubbing their trunks against the tree and by otherwise being a nuisance. This introduces disease to the tender tree trunk.

Deer Damage

Hungry deer will eat almost anything, but young sapling evergreens during the winter are the easiest target. The tender flesh is easy to eat. Plants in the area that are inedible to the deer will be trampled as they try to get to desirable plants, so planting to hide desirable evergreens will likely fail. Bucks show their dominance by bucking trees during mating season as well as rubbing against trees to remove the velvet from their antlers during the summer.


Barriers are effective measures against deer damage. Small, 4-foot fences are usually enough to deter a male deer from a small tree, while wire fences angled away from the tree will reduce the deers desire to enter the area. Wood fences are less frightening to deer, and according to the University of Minnesota, a male deer can jump an 8-foot fence. Electric fences are also useful as a deterrent.


Tree nurseries sometimes employ noise as a deer deterrent. This method rarely works, as the deer eventually adapt to the noise.


Deer repellents are used to make trees taste bad, or smell foul to deter deer from attacking the tree. Deer repellents made from rotten eggs as effective 46 percent of the time, according to the University of Minnesota Extension. Human hair is used to scare deer away from the tree, and is often effective as long as the hair is dirty. Hot sauce will also keep a deer from eating the tree.


Foraging plants will effectively deter a deer away from an evergreen if used in conjunction with another method of protection. Foraging plants supply food to deer when they are hungry during the winter, keeping them from going to the extremes of jumping over a fence for food. Garden lilies, apples and hostas are all preferable foraging plants to deer.