8 GREAT WAYS TO BEAT BACK BAMBIE – DEER DAMAGE CONTROL

When you think of wild animals, which one scares you most?

A cougar? 

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.

1.  WHITE-TAILED DEER DAMAGE MANAGEMENT FACT SHEET

This is a very complete account of deer habitat and food habbits that details a variety of methods to protect your plantings.

2.  APPETITE FOR TROUBLE

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.

3.  LIMITING DEER BROWSE DAMAGE TO LANDSCAPE PLANTS

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.

4.  USING COMMERCIAL REPELLENTS TO MANAGE DEER BROWSING IN THE LANDSCAPE

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.

5.  NATIVE FORBS USED TO REDUCE DEER BROWSING ON DOUGLAS FIR

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.

 6.  LIMITING DEER BROWS DAMAGE TO LANDSCAPE PLANTS

This Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station-New Haven article by Jeffry Ward details what plants deer are least likely to love.

7.  PREVENTING DEER DAMAGE

This fact sheet from Colorado State University Extension covers management strategies from fencing to planting choices with charts.

8.  REDUCING DEER BROWSE DAMAGE USDA FACT SHEET

This sheet covers the six basic deterrent methods for controlling deer depredation.

So, are you dealing with deer damage?

What do you do?

And stay out!

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5 replies

  1. We have a three stranded electric fence around our orchard and allotment plot out on our land. The three stranded wire is to protect against wild boar too. In the winter I wrap conifer branches around bushes to protect the bushes from the cold and also to prevent too much nibbling by deer. The apple trees we wrap in bubble wrap or sacking over the winter, partly again to protect from winter damage on the young trees, but also to prevent damage from deer.

    Once a forest consultant took me to see a plantation that had been recently planted and there were some guys there who were busy applying a blue sandy mixture to the tree tops. The last mass planting in the area was wiped out by deer and the owner had no wish to have a repeat of that large loss.

  2. Thanks, Joanna, for reminding me of your boars. They make deer look almost benign. You mentioned boar once before and I remember now that they are a problem in the more southern parts of the U.S.
    I hope that boars don’t invade my valley with all the other pests making their way north as the climate warms.
    We have not tried to garden seriously on our land yet. We are waiting till we live there full time after we finish the house next summer. At that point, fencing in the garden, orchard and grapes will be the top priority.
    Your protective branches and bubble wrap sound interesting, providing double duty as they do.

  3. No deer problem here in my little urban garden, but plenty of Lyme disease threat. The little white footed mouse, which is plentiful in and around my house, turns out to be the primary reservoir for B. burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease. It’s a huge problem. That said, I feel lucky not to have deer close by. These are great resources; I’ll pass them along to my more rural friends.
    Eleanor

  4. Yikes.
    I’ve never had a serious mouse infestation in my home. I can’t imagine why. I’ve lived in houses that seemed plenty inviting to mice.
    The first time we had mice, about 20 years ago in Indiana, I was such a softy that we used a little live trap my husband had used during his field biology classes in college. We would take them to the back of our property and release them.
    We began to feel they were making their way right back into the house, so my husband started releasing them miles from home on his way to work.
    The mice vanished from our house for good.
    When we had mice under the sink about 10 years ago, I got tougher and used one of those snap traps. After less then 10 traumatic snaps, that was the end of the mice.
    (At least I assume so — no more mouse turds or other sign.)
    How do you deal with your mice?

    • I’ve had reasonably good success with snap traps. One particular mouse got wise to the traps and repeatedly managed to snatch the peanut butter and run. Ultimately, dealing completely with every bit of edible anything (lots of glass jars now) helped a lot. At the worst point, they were chewing up towels and toilet paper in the linen closet for nest material. I haven’t had one (that I know of) now for a couple of months, so I’m hoping for a mouse-free winter!

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