Browsing deer inflict significant damage to young pine trees. During the winter months, when snow covers low-growing shrubs and grasses, deer will munch on the tender branches, twigs and foliage of resinous evergreen trees. During the fall mating season, male deer rub their antlers on tree bark to mark their territory and to establish dominance over other male deer. When deer eat pine tree foliage, needles, buds and stems may quickly regrow in the spring. If shape and form are not seriously damaged, no control may be needed.
Protect New Seedlings
Protect newly planted pine tree seedlings. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources advises that pine trees can survive the damage caused by browsing deer if the terminal bud tip is protected. If the terminal point is healthy and undamaged, the young pine tree will continue to grow in a vertical direction, even if most of the rest of tree has been nibbled on. Cut a 4-by-6 inch strip of white photocopy paper. Wrap the paper around the bud tip and staple to attach it to the needles.
Austrian pine (Pinus nigra "Hornibrookiana") is a hardy, deer-resistant, drought-tolerant species of pine tree that reaches a mature height of 60 feet. Protect young seedlings until well established. Once the tree reaches a height of 8 to 12 feet, the terminal growth point is out of the reach of a browsing deer. Austrian pine trees thrive in United States hardiness zones 4 through 7.
Deer will eat white pine trees (Pinus strobus) in preference to all other species of pine trees. Newly planted white pine trees require protection from deer, rabbits and mice. Loosely wrap the trunk of the tree with wire netting or mesh. If hungry wildlife girdles the tree, it cannot survive. White pine trees present lush, deep bluish-green foliage all year long. The tree reach a mature height of 50 to 80 feet tall. White pine trees grow best in United States hardiness zones 3 through 8.
If white pines are not available, deer prefer jack pine trees (Pinus banksiana) to other pine tree species.
Protection and maintenance can help mitigate the damage deer cause to pine trees. Malnourished or diseased trees are not as resistant to deer, insects or other environmental stresses. Trim dead branches, provide adequate water and control competitive grasses and weeds around the base of the tree.
Discourage deer from feasting on your pine trees by sprinkling carnivore scent around the base of the tree. Bear, cougar, wolf and coyote are natural deer predators. Carnivore-scent blocks or sprays are available online or for purchase from local hunting-supply stores. Do not put out deer feeders to entice deer to visit your property. Automated lights or sprinkler systems discourage nocturnal foraging.