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Will Deer Browse Norway, White, or Blue Spruce Trees?
In our experience, white spruce and blue spruce are rarely ever browsed. Norway spruce, on the other hand, does seem to get browsed in some locations. Most never experience browsing on Norway spruce but some folks do.
It normally seems to occur the first year the tree is in the ground when it is new. Research suggests it may be caused more by fawns than adult deer, although, the jury is still out on that one.
We have never seen it kill a tree. In fact, they fully recover. However; you may lose a year of growth on the branches the deer have browsed on. New buds will eventually form on browsed branches and then those buds will produce new shoots. This may not be until the next growing season. Other times the branch produces a new shoot the very next spring if a bud already exists behind where the browsing occurred.
This also applies to the top (terminal leader). If the terminal leader gets browsed then a new bud will form and create a new terminal leader. Once again, this may occur the very next spring or it may not occur until the following spring.
If you are concerned about deer browsing your spruce trees then you have a couple of options to protect them.
Put a bud cap on the terminal (top) leader
Plant trees that are at least 5' tall (in the spring) to protect the top (terminal) leader
If you are only planting a couple trees then caging them may be your best option. But if you are planting several of them then caging them may not be a feasible solution. Your best bet would be to place a bud cap over the top of the terminal leader (top branch) in the fall before the snow flies. This will prevent the top bud from getting browsed ensuring your tree will put on a new year of vertical growth the next spring. You can do this on the other branches as well, although, that may be a time consuming chore.
We recommend using a commercial grade, breathable, bud cap (search Google) and follow the directions.
You certainly can try making your own by cutting a plastic square 4" x 4" and folding it around the top bud. Then staple it in place making sure you get a couple of the needles under the staple to hold it in place. Wood pellet bags are good material to make bud caps out of. We do not recommend paper as deer can chew through it. It also my disintegrate in wet winter weather.
If you make your own then be sure to remove them in the spring before bud break. Re-apply each year until the terminal leader is out of a deer's reach (around 5' tall).
Once again, some folks do find that their Norway spruce gets browsed on occasion. Many never experience it at all. White spruce and blue spruce do not seem to experience any browsing in our experience. If you are concerned about deer browsing on any of your spruce trees then we would recommend using bud caps on them until they are around 5' tall. If you are only planting a couple then it may make sense to cage them.
Deer browsing on spruce trees usually does not kill the tree. They fully recover in rapid time. It also seems to happen when the tree is new. It normally does not happen again. Once again, in our experience.
If you are concerned about deer browsing your spruce trees then we would recommend caging them or bud capping them until they are around 5' tall.