- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Have you ever walked out into your garden and found half-eaten plants in your landscape? If so, you, like many other residents, may be experiencing deer browsing.
Deer populations are increasing and conflicts between deer and landscaped spaces are expected to increase as more rural areas develop. There are many perspectives on how wildlife interactions affect lives and properties. Some people enjoy seeing the deer in their yards and other people get extremely mad when the deer are browsing on their landscape plants.
Residents who live in areas with high deer populations must accept the reality that if they plant ornamental shrubs and flowers that are attractive to deer, there is a strong possibility they will incur damage. Many of the most popular landscaping plants are highly nutritional to deer and provide tender, succulent new growth with high water content. Over-fertilized and over-watered plants are particularly lush and appealing to deer.
Deer can damage plants in an assortment of ways. The buck deer can damage trees and shrubs by rubbing his antlers in the late summer, fall and early winter. The rubbing can cause bark and lower limbs of small trees and shrubs to become deformed.
Deer are nocturnal, selective feeders. They are browsers, often consuming their total food intake at many locations throughout the night. It is estimated deer can eat up to 6-8 pounds of plant material in a day. There are, however, many plant species that are resistant to this browsing problem.
Deer resistance does not mean deer proof. Common characteristics of plants that deer prefer not to eat include plants with thorny or prickly leaves or stems; plants with strong scents and pungent tastes, such as herbs; plants that are poisonous or produce thick, latex-like sap; and plants with hairy leaves.
Sometimes other options might be necessary. Fences and barriers can be used to keep deer out of the garden. This is the only foolproof method for stopping deer from entering. There are also many deer repellents on the market that can be sprayed on landscape plants. In some cases, repellents may not work if the deer are hungry enough. Most products need frequent applications and rotations. Some people use motion detectors and security lights, hoping they will work, but over time the deer become accustomed to them.
One creative approach might be to divide the landscape up into zones. The first zone might be an area farther away from the house where you only plant deer resistant plants. In the second zone, chose an area and group plants that are less resistant to deer browsing and learn to accept some level of damage. The last zone might be closest to the home and is either protected by deer fencing or regular applications of repellents.
The battle between deer and humans will increase with future rural development and increased deer populations. A combination of strategies will be required to win the war against the deer.