Non-toxic control strategies for keeping deer out of your yard and gardens.
Deer are browsers, so they tend to nibble on tender perennial plants and young trees. A few are a gentle nuisance; during a hard winter, a large heard will eat almost everything in sight. One of the reasons that deer are becoming a bigger problem in many parts of the United States is that their numbers are increasing. Here’s a clip from The Associated Press, 2000.
The national deer population, now estimated at 25 million to 30 million, has been growing for decades. Not only have deer adapted to encroaching suburbia, but they have benefited from a series of mild winters, an increase in newly developed areas being declared off limits for hunters and a decline in hunting in some parts of the country… Curtis [wildlife biologist Paul Curtis of Cornell University] said. “Deer populations are already at densities a biologist wouldn’t have dreamed of 10 years ago.”
Specific strategies for keeping deer out of your garden vary depending on the local population, available food supplies, cost, plants’ damage-tolerance, and types of plants grown. Many solutions are available, but nothing is absolutely foolproof (see Oh Deer… Not My Garden!). Here are some suggestion:
Fences - For most homeowners, an 8-10 foot high fence provides adequate protection but is costly. Some gardeners opt for electrified fences, but these can be dangerous.
Row Covers - In early spring, when food sources are depleted and new growth on shrubs, trees, and plants is appearing, gardeners can opt to use row covers or garden netting over shrubs, small trees, seedlings and transplants.
Wire Cages - Small, wire cages around beds or individual plants rather than the entire property can be used to protect plantings.
Scare Devices - Motion activated deterrents that spray water are often used to scare animals away from an area. Since deer are habitual animals, it is important to begin the tactic as soon as browsing is noticed.
Home Remedies - There are several “home remedies” that repel deer, such as human hair, soap such as Irish Spring, and Lifeboy, and hot sauces. These remedies must be refreshed, and gardeners must switch strategies as deer grow accustomed to each ploy.
Commercial Repellents - These work through taste and/or smell and tend not to be washed off by rain. Commercial pest repellents can provide protection for up to three months.