Deer Wars - Coming Soon to an Urban or Suburb Garden near You

As more deer move to suburbia, homeowners seek more effective deterrents. As we move into warm weather, deer will become more prevalent in our backyard gardens. Below are some interesting facts and tips to keep deer at bay.

When you think of deer, do you envision a shy doe hiding beneath forest foliage? Or perhaps you imagine a buck bounding through a field along a quiet country road. The reality of where deer like to live is much closer to home than you think. Humans aren’t the only species that thrive in suburbia. Today, more deer live in close proximity to humans than ever before in our country’s history. Our forefathers thought of them as a food sourse so that keep away but not longer. Deers are not afraid of a camera. 

“Hunting has reduced deer densities in large, wooded open space areas across the country over the past decade,” says Dr. Scott C. Williams of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. “Many deer remain, however, and are now largely concentrated in residential areas where they have abundant ornamental plants to browse and where little or no hunting occurs.”

With ample food sources and no natural predators, suburban areas - your backyard - have a lot to offer deer. Deer are extremely adaptive and living in close proximity to humans, they have learned to associate people with food. Many will learn the habits of humans in their area, and adjust their browsing times accordingly to munch on residential landscapes while people are not around, or asleep.

Nationally, deer cause millions of dollars in damage by devouring residential landscapes and through vehicle collisions. Estimates range around $1 billion, annually, including damage to property, crops and timber. Problems aren’t just linked to a high number of deer in an area. Even just one or two in an area can cause significant damage; a single deer can consume a ton and a half of vegetation per year.

If you’ve seen signs of deer damage around your home, you’ll need to combat the problem to keep deer away from your lawn, trees, shrubs and garden. Some of the options include:

Physical barriers - Although sometimes unsightly, high fences (at least 8 ft.) can keep deer out, but with many suburbs and homeowners associations placing restrictions on fence height, you may not be allowed to build a fence high enough to be effective. Some of the fencing possibilities include:

  • Metal hexagrid deer fencing is a heavy-duty chicken wire coated with a weather resistant black pvc coating that reduces wear and tear and visibility. It is a solution for keeping deer at bay because of the low visibility stops deer from being able to jump over it.
  • Woven Wire Fencing should be at least 8 feet high and in areas, ten foot heights should be used. These are constructed both as vertical and slanted fences.
  • Electric Fencing can be permanent, semi-permanent, and temporary. Now there is a product called Wireless Fence with is just what it sounds like an invisible fence. Lots of configurations are used with electric fencing. But the fencing will be more effective if combined with a conventional fence. Common configurations include single and multiple strands used both vertically and slanted.
  • Mesh Barriers - Mesh Fencing is used as a short term deterrent when needed. Mesh Fencing is a great inexpensive choice since it can be reused.
  • Deer Netting and Tubing – is used around individual tree seedlings reducing damage to small trees by deer.

Deer-resistant plantings - Hungry deer will eat just about any type of foliage, but there are some plants that don’t appeal to them, such as French marigolds, foxglove, boxwood, ornamental grasses and rosemary. Incorporating these plants throughout your landscape might help deter some invasive deer. Of course check with your local Cornell Cooperative Extension or local nursery people for ideas for deer-resistant plantings in your locality.

Motion deterrents - Deer are skittish around unexpected motion, so windsocks positioned near your garden might deter deer from dining there. You may also try motion-sensing sprinklers, lights or even a radio to startle deer away. If these deterrents occasionally work, you’ll need to reposition them so deer don’t become acclimated to them.

Repellents - Not exactly fencing, barrier ribbon with deer repellent applied to it can be used as an "odor fence" keeping deer out. Barrier ribbon which is thought to be the most effective deterrent to keep deer out of suburban areas is a scent-aversion repellent, according to Williams. “Our research has proven that this kind of repellent works to protect plants from damage by deer and other animals.”

Because deer rely heavily on their sense of smell for feeding, so using a scent-aversion repellant works. Deer can be an effective, long-lasting and safe way to keep deer away from your home and landscape.

You can also make up your own deer repellent recipe such as the ones found on Deer-departed and Food

Many of the repellent products ingredients combine the scents of rotten eggs, garlic, fish, clove oil and vinegar (among other things) to ward off deer, moose and elk from browsing on ornamental plantings, shrubs and trees. Even if a deer can get past the smell, it makes plants taste unpleasant so they likely won’t take more than one bite before moving on.

An example of a repellent - chemical deterrent is Bobbex. As you’ll read below CT AG tested Bobbex against 8 other like deer repellants in the marketplace and a physical fence. Bobbex was rated at 93% efficacy - only behind as physical fence.

See test results 

Bobbex Deer is safe for use on most sensitive plants, is harmless to all wildlife, humans, pets, birds and aquatic life, and won’t wash off in rain or from watering. In testing, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station found Bobbex Deer to be 93 percent effective, second only to a physical barrier for preventing deer damage. To learn more about Bobbex Deer and Bobbex-R, for small animals.




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