When you think of wild animals, which one scares you most?
A wolf pack? A grisley bear?
A badger? (Go Badgers!)
What scars me most is a white tail deer.
That’s right – Bambi strikes fear in my heart.
I’m not alone.
A 1992 USDA national survey targeted deer demolition as the most widespread form of wildlife damage. A 2001 report by Cornell Cooperative Extension estimated that deer cause $2 billion of damage a year in the U.S.
That breaks down as:
$1 billion in car damages
$100 million in agriculture crops damages
$750 million in timber industry damages
$250 million in metropolitan landscape plantings
These estimates are conservative, and I notice they don’t mention damage to ecosystems, where deer Hoover up every native plant on a forest floor. At least 98 threatened or endangered plants are browsed by white-tailed deer. (Don’t you love those delicate spring flowers like shooting star, trillium, bluebells, and trout lily?
So do the deer.
And no economic value has been calculated yet for the increase in Lyme disease that is transmitted by ticks that spend part of their life cycle on deer.
I don’t even want to think about the young trees I have either planted or valued that have been buck rubbed to death in the past few years on our land.
What I can’t help thinking about right now is what happened a few weeks ago to the two promising apple trees we have been nurturing since spring 2010. (See my post Three Little Twigs. ) I grafted those trees myself. We planted them with care and have kept them protected (we thought) by enclosing them in chicken wire cages. They made good progress through their first two growing seasons.
I don’t know why the deer left them alone so long.
And I don’t know why the deer decided now to rip those cages out of the ground, fling them many yards away and then eat every single branch down to a nub.
Winter is coming, and that means food is getting harder and harder to come by for wildlife that does note migrate or hibernate. To survive the winter, white-tail deer must eat five to six pounds of browse each day – that adds up to 600 pounds of buds, twigs and bark.
So I’ve been doing a little internet research that I’d like to share. Here are some sites that may help you in the endless battle to keep the exploding deer herd from eating everything you love.
This is a very complete account of deer habitat and food habbits that details a variety of methods to protect your plantings.
A Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine article on how the growing herd of browsing deer change the landscape of forests, croplands and homesteads and shaping both the physical and cultural landscape.
This is an article from Connecticut Gardener by Pamela Weil and it includes lists of plants that are less likely to be chosen by hungry deer. Some plants are just asking for trouble – for example, tulips, hosta and daylily are deer candy.
This fact sheet was prepared by the Maryland Cooperative Extension and details popular deer repellents with their active ingredient, mode of action, longevity, trade names anc relative costs.
This University of Nebraska-Lincoln article is a bit academic, but it makes an interesting point that planting native flowering plants near young trees you are trying to protect can give the deer an alternative food source.
This Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station-New Haven article by Jeffry Ward details what plants deer are least likely to love.
This fact sheet from Colorado State University Extension covers management strategies from fencing to planting choices with charts.
This sheet covers the six basic deterrent methods for controlling deer depredation.
So, are you dealing with deer damage?
What do you do?
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