Aim We used fraying scars to understand spatial variation in browsing history. Information on browsing history is an essential background in studies on the long-term effect of deer browsing on the flora and fauna and of its variation in space.
Location We focused on two small neighbouring islands of Haida Gwaii (British Columbia, Canada), Reef Island and South-Skedans Island, colonized by introduced black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis).
Methods We searched for sites where trees with fraying scars were clustered. We studied the trees that deer selected (species, size) and the characteristics of scars (number, position, size). Using a cross-dating procedure, we dated fraying scars with dendrochronology, obtaining an accurate estimate of the year the scar was formed.
Results On Reef Island, Thuja plicata was the tree species chosen for fraying. On South-Skedans Island, where Thuja plicata is missing, deer chose Salix sp. and Alnus rubra. Deer chose only trees with a circumference of less than 50 cm. About two to three fraying scars were recorded per tree. All of them extended between 30–40 and 70–80 cm from the ground and were between 5 and 6 cm in width. On Reef Island, 95% of the scars were formed during the last 50 years. On South-Skedans Island, 95% were formed over the last 10 years. Age distribution of scars showed a constant increase of the number of scars over time. It indicated that deer had colonized Reef Island 53 years prior to this study but were absent or rare on South-Skedans Island until 13 years prior to this study.
Main conclusions These results indicate different colonization dates and thus different length of browsing histories for the islands studied and provide the historical background necessary to analyse the involvement of deer in the current differences in the flora and fauna observed between islands.