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:: Home > The Forest > Reforestation > Hot Topic: Animals and Damage

Animals need all types of forests for all types of reasons. For instance, mature forests with old trees are perfect places for some animals, like the spotted owl, to build nests and hunt in the shaded understory. Other animals, like deer and elk, may use old forests for resting and hiding, but they will also look for open areas to find succulent plants to eat. Clearcut and partially cut stands provide excellent places for some animals, like deer and elk, to find food. Sometimes the food the animals are looking for are the same seedlings that were planted to regenerate the forest!

Lots of animals in Oregon eat little trees. For example, deer, hare, elk, grouse, mountain beaver (picture), woodrats, domestic animals, and porcupines will clip young shoots and fresh roots of young Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine trees, browse needles and buds, gnaw on the bark, and sometimes, pull, trample, and rub against the trees.
When we establish a young forest, foresters always plan for some animal damage to the seedlings. In most areas animals may do damage, but usually the damage doesn't result in a reforestation failure. If too many animals do too much damage to too many trees, however, we begin to have a problem. At this point damage control is necessary.

There are many different ways to control the damage, and often each type of animal has its own method for being controlled. Hares, porcupines, and mountain beavers are sometimes trapped and killed, while in other circumstances they are trapped and relocated to areas where they'll do less damage. We use controlled hunts to reduce the population of deer and elk, but repellents can also be used so that tree seedlings are unpalatable to the animals. A less preferred method that is used to control small mammals is toxic chemicals; it is often considered a last resort, and many laws and regulations limit its use.

Most often, we protect the youngest of trees (called seedlings) from above-ground browse by surrounding each one with a protective, biodegradable plastic tube. Animals can't get at the green leaves and stems of the seedlings, and after a few years the plastic tube falls apart.

The silvicultural activities involved with minimizing animal damage to young trees occurs for the first few years of the tree's life. After that, the trees are big enough to escape heavy damage from most animals. However, problems can arise during the entire life of the trees. There are insects and diseases that affect trees at any age, and require other managment tools to control.