It's a mystery as Toyah might sing, if anyone still remembers her. I was out walking recently and spotted a tree with some significant scoring on the trunk. I have a theory which I will expound, but might be very wrong indeed and so I would welcome all comments though I do appreciate that even photos rarely contain all the information necessary to be confident in a conclusion.
Here are a few photos I took this afternoon. The first is an "establishing shot" showing what I believe is a willow, which is the tree with the damage, located in the middle of a ride in a commercial forestry plantation. It doesn't show the tree too clearly but is more in aid of setting the scene.
This shot shows the tree a little more clearly and you can see the scoring on the trunk and that a lot of bark has been removed. You will also note that a number of the higher branches are broken off. What is maybe not very clear is that some of the individual scores/bark removal areas start maybe 5 feet up the tree.
This shows the scoring and bark remove on the other side of the tree. Again what is maybe not clear is that on this side of the tree it sort of sits over a little ditch and so some of the scoring and bark stripping appears to be happening at maybe nearly 6 feet from the ground.
This is a closer shot of the damage on the tree
And finally a close up of the damage
My reading of this is as follows:
I am fairly confident there are no deer in this forest, or if there are any they are very rare visitors indeed. A few winters back we had a fall of "sticky" snow which seemed to stick to the branches of willow trees and eventually break them off and this tree looks to have suffered similar damage and so I'm saying that the broken branches are down to this. Based on this I'm putting the bark stripping/scoring damage down to hares as I believe there are a good number in this particular forest. My theory is that they did the damage when there was snow on the ground, and they were keen to get any food they could find, and this explains how they managed to start stripping bark maybe 5 feet from the ground. It was the broken branches that gave me the clue as to the possibility of snow also being involved in the bark damage and without them I might still be pondering the matter.
Of course I appreciate that without the local knowledge it is difficult for others to form an opinion but even so I'd be interested in your views and hopefully it will also give a few members a bit of entertainment over a cup of tea.