Here are 25 actions that property owners may use to protect landscaped areas from deer. Remember to consider terrain and weather; what works well on one property might not work for another. Perhaps the greatest overall defense is the use of vegetation that deer avoid. We encourage homeowners to consult the extensive list of deer-deterrent/deer-attractive plants for this region, “Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance” from Rutgers University: https://njaes.rutgers.edu/deerresistance/. Besides appropriate planning and layout strategies, we recommend a rotation of field methods. Try the predator scent for two weeks around the property perimeter. For the next two weeks try one of the mechanical devices such as a motion detector water spray; then change to a mechanical noise maker. Don’t forget to enlist the help of your landscape contractors, or just do it yourself. Most methods and devices require little time to set up or implement. Compiled by www.ny4wildlife.org; contact us for more info.
1. PROPER PLANNING
During planning stages, consult with and hire landscape architects with proven success in creating greenery that does not attract deer. If they choose shrubs and trees that are on the deer’s preferred vegetation, let them know these are unacceptable. Proper planning BEFORE the landscaping has been done is critical to preventing deer-vegetation conflicts. (Consult “Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance” from Rutgers University: https://njaes.rutgers.edu/deerresistance/.)
Study! Learn what deer like, and what keeps them out. Discover the plants that attract deer: salad edibles, lettuce, beans, corn, pansies, etc. Deer also love fruit and fruit trees, such as peaches and strawberries. Don’t make your garden or yard area a suitable deer foraging zone.
3. CREATE AN EXCLUSION ZONE.
Manage a “deer-proof” area, an exclusion zone. Fence it off (at 8’ height) to prevent deer from entering. Place your favorite plants, trees or vegetable gardens here to prevent access by deer. (Consult “Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance” from Rutgers University: https://njaes.rutgers.edu/deerresistance/.)
4. PLANT FAVORITE PLANTS NEAR THE HOUSE (OR POOL AREA).
While deer may enjoy a romp through the garden or green grass, they are not as comfortable approaching structures, especially with human activities, moving cars and lights. Depending on how habituated the deer have become to humans, this method may not work for some properties.
5. THORNS, BURRS, PRICKLES
Plant thorny bushes or prickly plants around the perimeter of the property. Understandably, deer will not dine on thorny vegetation, and will avoid them. Boxwoods and thorny rose bushes make lovely hedges and will keep deer out.
6. POISONOUS PLANTS.
Deer avoid poisonous plants and plants with fuzzy leaves. These include Crocus, Daffodil, Bluebell and Mullein.
7. PLANT DEER-DETERRENT GROUND COVER INSTEAD OF GRASS.
Consider deer-deterring ground cover instead of turf grass. Deer will avoid Lily of the Valley, Pachysandra, and Bugleweed.
8. FOR PRIVACY: SUBSTITUTE SHORT NEEDLE SPRUCES FOR THE DEER’S FAVORITE ARBORVITAE.
Short-needle spruces such as Dwarf Alberta Spruce and Boxwood hedges grow thick and luscious and can create a privacy wall that the deer will respect. If the deer can’t see what’s on the other side of those thick hedges, they will most likely avoid it. Check each variety before planting. While deer will “seldom” damage Colorado Blue Spruce, the Norway Spruce or White Spruce, not all spruces are off the menu. (Consult “Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance” from Rutgers University: https://njaes.rutgers.edu/deerresistance/.)
9. PLANT PUNGENT HERBS.
Strong scents like lavender, garlic, mint, and chives are repugnant to deer. These will overcome the odors of more deer-attractive plantings and keep deer out.
10. COVER THE BASE OF NEWLY PLANTED TREES.
Protect young fruit trees by covering the trunks, to about 5 feet, with plastic or impenetrable PVC jackets that cannot be chewed through.
11. MECHANICAL DEVICE #1: MOTION DETECTOR WATER SPRAYS.
Surprising deer with an unexpected burst of water will scare them off.
12. MECHANICAL DEVICE #2: MOTION DETECTOR LIGHTS.
Those motion detector lights outside in your garden will also surprise deer and scare them off.
13. MECHANICAL DEVICE #3: MOTION DETECTOR NOISEMAKER.
Radios or other noisemakers will also startle and scare off the deer.
14. PREDATOR SCENT.
There are many predator scents on the market today. These include coyote scent, wolf scent, even mountain lion scent; many will last for several months. Placing these strategically around the perimeter of the property will keep deer away.
15. DEER REPELLENT SACHETS HANGING FROM A TREE.
This kind of product (such as “Deer No No”) uses citrus scents and hangs from branches to keep deer out away. Some use other deer repelling odors. Most of these sachets are “weatherproof” and can be hung outside throughout the year. These need to be replaced every few months, while some last up to a year depending on the product.
16. DEER-DETERRENT SOIL PRODUCTS.
Several products, such as Milorganite and Deer Scram, are sprinkled ~18 inches from the base of favorite plants, and will repel deer. Available at many home centers and at www.ny4wildlife.org.
17. LET THE DOG OUT.
Deer will avoid dogs, who are, after all, descendents of their top predator. Exercise caution for small dogs or if natural predators are in the area.
17. ORGANIZE A NEIGHBORHOOD BORDER COLLIE PATROL.
Border collies can be trained to keep deer out of neighborhoods, or to help keep deer IN a local preserve or conservation area.
18. ALLOW COYOTES AND FOX TO LIVE IN PEACE.
Coyotes are powerful deterrents to deer. Where coyotes roam, deer make themselves scarce. Fox and coyotes are voracious mouse hunters. Coyotes and fox will kill large quantities of mice, the primary vector of Lyme disease. Coyotes are primary deer fawn predators also and act as a natural population control.
19. CREATE FEEDING STATIONS IN CONSERVATION AREAS.
Providing food for deer will help keep deer from roaming into residential areas. Introduce supplemental food products slowly, as deer need time to adjust to non-forage dietary changes. Rotate hard fruits (apples, pears), and nuts and other varieties to keep the deer interested. Grains and horse pellets should be introduced slowly also. Avoid corn, which can lead to death by rumen acidosis, as a sudden introduction of carbohydrates in the digestive system.
Some municipalities subsidize a deer feeding area, paid by local property taxes. PROCEED WITH CAUTION AND INVESTIGATE THOROUGHLY before you place any supplemental foods out for deer. Deer must adjust their digestive system gradually when switching to new food sources. Many deer die due to enterotoxemia, usually when fed corn by humans. See below: “Supplemental Feeding of White-Tailed Deer During Winter,” from the state of Maine.
Supplemental Feeding of White-Tailed Deer During Winter
A Position Statement of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife
The Practice of Supplemental Feeding
Supplemental feeding of deer is gaining popularity in Maine. Practiced primarily during late autumn, winter, and early spring, deer feeding involves placing grains, apples, hay, and other feeds where deer will find and consume them.
A diverse array of people feed deer. Many are suburbanites who feed a few deer; others provide supplemental food to literally hundreds of deer within deer wintering areas. Deer feeding sites are sometimes maintained by municipalities, which commit a portion of their tax revenues to deer feeding, or by businesses that fund deer feeding operations as a cost of doing business.
People are motivated to feed deer for a variety of reasons. They may believe deer cannot survive winter without supplemental food, or they believe that feeding deer in winter will result in a larger, huntable population the next year. Suburban landowners may believe supplemental foods will divert deer away from expensive shrubbery, hence reducing landscaping costs. Others simply enjoy seeing deer at close range. Some business owners know that attracting deer also attracts customers.
The Department acknowledges that most individuals who feed deer are well intentioned. As the state agency responsible for the stewardship of Maine’s wildlife resources, we are compelled to alert Maine people to the many problems that winter-feeding may exert upon deer and their habitat.
Some Disadvantages of Supplemental Feeding
Feeding deer in late fall may disrupt deer migration to natural wintering areas
In early winter, deer normally migrate to preferred wintering habitat, in some cases more than 20 miles from summer range. Deer “short-stopped” by supplemental feeding operations are often more vulnerable to malnutrition, because they do not have access to the right type and amount of foods found in traditional wintering habitat. Also, without the protection of wintering habitat, deer are particularly vulnerable to severe winter weather and predation.
Supplemental feeding may not reduce deer losses during winter
Predation, not starvation, is the major cause of winter mortality among deer in Maine. Although predators, such as coyotes and bobcats, will selectively kill winter-weakened deer, they are also able to prey upon healthy, vigorous deer. Winter severity (deep snow, intense cold, glare ice on lakes) and the quality of wintering habitat are the real determinants of deer survival in winter. Supplementally-fed deer are still vulnerable to predation, if wintering conditions are severe, particularly where deer are being fed in marginal habitat.
Supplemental feeding may actually increase predation
Providing a supplemental food source crowds deer into a smaller area than when deer range widely to find food. Concentrated deer maintain a limited network of escape trails, since they often bed near feeders. Deer require extensive trails to elude predators. It is not unusual to observe predation on deer within sight of supplemental feeders.
Deer feeding sites near homes also place deer at greater risk of death from free-roaming dogs
Family pets that are allowed to roam pose a serious threat to deer, particularly when snow is deep and crusted. Winter feeding operations that concentrate deer in residential areas increase the likelihood that deer will be run and killed by neighborhood dogs. http://www.maine.gov/ifw/wildlife/species/mammals/feeding_deer.html
20. CREATE A DEER-FRIENDLY ZONE.
Consider cultivating a “deer zone” with deer-friendly natural foods in suitable non-conservation areas with crabapple trees, pears, chestnuts, white oaks, red oaks and aspen.
21. MAKE A STUNKY “DEER JUICE” REPELLENT. There are many recipes available online formulated by homeowners who have successfully sprayed their gardens’ greens to keep deer away. Without demonizing deer, inviting children to participate will provide valuable lessons in wildlife and ecology. Here’s a home-made egg-based spray from the SFGate that will last some two months after being applied.
To deter deer from eating your plants, garlic powder and other household items can be applied to plants with a spray bottle.
Deterring deer from your yard and plants starts with some hot tap water. Dissolving ingredients into hot water and leaving them sit for two days will make a potent solution that you will be able to spray directly on plants to keep deer away. Start off with 2 cups of hot water in a clean bowl with a spout and lid.
Eggs make a great addition to a deer-repellent spray for two reasons. First, the egg-white proteins will dry on the leaves of the plants on which the liquid is sprayed, helping the ingredients to stick to the plant and keep deterring deer for up to 60 days. Second, the egg yolks contain sulfur compounds that begin to break down over time, giving the liquid a strong sulfur odor. The odor is offensive to deer and will not harm the plants to which it is applied. While the familiar smell of “rotten” eggs will linger while you spray the liquid initially, you won’t be able to smell it in the air once it dries. Add two beaten eggs to the water and whisk it together to move forward.
Deer are strongly put off by the scent of garlic. The animals are also put off by the taste, so applying it to your plants will leave an odor that will have deer seeking something other than your prized topiary to munch on. Whisking 2 tablespoons of garlic powder into the liquid will give your spray just enough garlic odor to keep hungry deer at bay.
While the scent of eggs and garlic should be enough to keep the deer away from your yard, adding in a fail-safe ingredient like cayenne pepper makes this homemade deer-repellent spray even more effective. Cayenne pepper is extremely spicy, a quality that deer simply will not tolerate. If, by chance, a very hungry deer should attempt to eat from your yard despite the odor of the other ingredients, the application of cayenne pepper will leave its mouth with an uncomfortable burning sensation that will send it seeking another source of food just as quickly as it came. The pepper is safe for your plants, too. Whisking 2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper into the liquid will leave your otherwise tasty plants unpalatable.
Letting the liquid rest in a lidded bowl for two to three days will incorporate the spiciness and smell of the egg and garlic powder, leaving you with a potent deer repellent. By transferring the odorous liquid to a clean spray bottle, you’ll be able to spray down your plants all over your yard to keep deer away.
If you garden with deer in the Hudson Valley, you should be growing nepeta, or catmint. Deer hate its minty smell and will stay completely away from it. They hate nepeta so much, in fact, that you may even be able to keep deer away from some of their favorites – hostas, lilies, roses, impatiens – by surrounding them with plantings of catmint. Sometimes I make a nepeta tea with leftover cuttings and then add it to my 2-gallon jug of deer-repellent spray. Spotlight: Nepeta. Deer Resistant May 17, 2011 New York Deer Resistant Plants The Journal News | LoHud.com
Bill Cary/The Journal News
22. USE LANDSCAPE CONTRACTORS TO HELP ROTATE DETERRENT METHODS.
While caring for your property, Landscape Contractors can rotate devices and perform deer-deterrent activities. They are there to help with the lawn, and that might include protecting the garden flora around the property.
23. BOTANIST SURVEY.
Hire a botanist to survey your property and make a detailed report of the flora, what is attracting deer, what deer-repelling plants can be substituted and other strategies to protect your gardens. NY4Whales-NY4Wildlife have consulting botanists on staff that will help with ways that will keep deer out of your area.
24. POPULATION CONTROL.
Male vasectomy and female immune-contraception are proving successful population control methods. Consult with state and local officials to set a project in place in your area.
A FEW “DON’T’S”
NEVER place poisons anywhere in your garden or yard; this includes pesticides and herbicides. Deadly toxins kill beneficial wildlife and insects as well as any targeted ones. Poisoned mice or insects will kill the birds, small mammals and more that consume them.
DON’T allow products in your garden that use wireless technology, including Electronic Deer Repellent stakes. These give off Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Radiation (RF EMF) which are known to harm – even kill – insects and birds.
AVOID electric shock posts and wireless fences. The small amount of electricity needed to dispense a “shock” to a deer’s nose is enough to kill beneficial small birds and insects.
DON’T use monofilament line to keep deer out. These are known to cause entanglement and even kill deer, other small mammals and birds who collide with them.
DON’T allow trash, plastic items, or anything from food wrappers to balloons, and other disposables on your property. These items can easily be mistaken for food and ingested by wildlife.
DON’T allow cigarette butts to be crushed underfoot and left on or near your gardens. Butts contain hundreds of toxic, deadly chemicals that leach out during rains and travel throughout the landscaped soils. These chemicals also penetrate and contaminate the soil, jeopardizing the microorganisms in the soil as well as the plants and vegetables that may be growing there.
AVOID using leaf blowers – these powerful air streams create more problems than they are worth: they blow up (upturn) beneficial insects and naturally decomposing detritus that feed and enrich the soil. Leaf blowers also upturn and vaporize pet and animal feces and spread these into the air. Gasoline-powered leaf blowers create more exhaust fumes than 40 running cars and are one of the most polluting of all fossil-fuel driven devices!