Oh, Deer

More white-tailed deer are choosing suburbia

By Sharon Tregaskis


Deer pressure is highest in early fall as bucks prepare for a demanding mating season. Not only do they nosh on high-calorie nuts and use their racks to strip succulent bark from saplings, but their antler polishing can also girdle a sturdy tree and shred anything smaller. In early to midspring, both does and bucks increase their calorie consumption to replenish the fat reserves they burned during the lean months of winter.

Fences, foul-smelling repellents, patrol dogs on duty day and night, scare tactics (pyrotechnics and strobe lights, among others), and hunters minimize agricultural losses. Homeowners can protect their landscapes with creative fencing, repellents, and motion-activated sprinklers, as well as political action to promote effective regional management.

To keep deer out, a fence must be at least 8 feet tall. If the fence creates a solid visual barrier, 6 feet is sufficient; deer won’t leap if they can’t see where they’ll land. The most effective repellents mimic the scent of putrescent egg, but take care: Few weather well, and new growth isn’t protected until it’s been coated. When replacing damaged specimens, get a list of native plants deer rarely damage from your local Cooperative Extension or garden club; not all herds share the same tastes. Lastly, since herds roam freely among farm fields and suburbs—on a home range of some 500 acres, more during the fall breeding season—pay attention to your state’s management plan and share your views on hunting regulations with elected officials in your town and those nearby. The pressure of growing herds pushes deer ever deeper into the suburbs, promotes bolder browsing, and transforms plants deer might normally avoid into tempting treats.

Photo: Geir Olaf Gjerden\Almay