It has been your life long dream, a house in the country away from all the hustle and bustle of the city. A place where the air is clean, the soil is fertile, and “…where the deer and the antelope play.” But, have you ever thought about the feeding habits of those deer and antelope? You spend a good amount of time and money investing in lawn care services and making your landscape beautiful, only to find that the plants you chose seem to be the favorite “snacks” of the local deer population.
Yard Damage & Deer
At the turn of the century, there were an estimated 500,000 white-tailed deer in the United States. The most recent estimate is that their population has grown to over 25 million — a 5,000% increase! The farming industry and homeowners will lose close to a billion dollars as the result of damage caused by deer. Nature has always kept animal populations in check, but the suburban environment has disrupted the natural check and balance systems. The deer have had an opportunity to grow unchecked, and have become a nuisance in many communities.
Deer feed on many plants and trees commonly found in the yard. They love strawberries, many vegetables, flowers, and the tender tips of young trees. They will, also, damage trees by rubbing their antlers against them. They have been known to dig up a lawn in search of grubs, the fall favorite of many forest animals. Keeping them from doing what comes naturally, foraging for food, can be arduous. This is especially true during long snowy winters when food supplies are scarce. Most home landscapes and yard are “easy pickings” for a hungry deer. They see it as an easily accessible buffet of culinary delights, much to your chagrin. You can either plant less of their favorite foods, or try to control their feeding habits.
Preventing Lawn Damage by Deer
There are several commercial and home-remedy yard care products available to help reduce their feeding on valuable plants and trees. Many are short-lived, and once the deer become accustomed to the odor or taste, they may become ineffective. It is best to change products, or methods, on a regular basis. Some of the home remedies are:
- Hang a bar of soap in a mesh bag from a tree. Fragrant soaps such as Lifebuoy, Irish Spring, and Dial seem to work the best. If there are several trees to protect, use hotel-size bars, or cut the larger bars into several pieces. Tie the bags to the ends of the branches so that any soap that drips off during a rain or snowstorm will not drip onto the trunk. There have been some reports that rabbits will gnaw on the soap residue.
- Human or dog hair can also be placed in mesh bags or nylons and hung from tree branches.
- Baby powder, blood meal, or bone meal will also provide some resistance to their feeding, but these will require continued, repeated applications.
There are numerous animal repellent products available. A simple web search on the key words ‘Deer Repellent Products’ will provide you with a wide range of choices.
Deer are beautiful, serene creatures and are fascinating to watch. Keeping them away from your landscape plants can be a frustrating and seemingly hopeless task. It is the price you have to pay for ‘living in the country’.
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