Landscaping tips to eliminate conflicts with deer

Tue, 05/02/2006 - 12:34pm
By: The Citizen

Among the most common wildlife complaints by suburban homeowners is the destruction of plants and gardens caused by white-tailed deer, reports The Humane Society of the United States. “The frustration often leads to unnecessary battles between deer and humans that would not exist at all if people were proactive and followed a few simple steps when landscaping,” says Laura Simon, deer expert and field director of The HSUS Urban Wildlife Program.

Here are a few tips that can help.

Plant wisely

• There is no such thing as a completely “deer-resistant” plant, since deer palates vary seasonally and regionally. A hungry deer will sample almost everything and eat even marginal foods when the going gets tough. However, there ARE plants that deer will generally avoid. These include:

• Strong-smelling plants in the mint, geranium, and marigold families

• Any plant in the daffodil family

• Toxic plants such as in the foxglove and nightshade families

• Many plants with fuzzy, prickly, or sharp leaves

• Ornamental grasses and ferns

• Check with local experts at nurseries, landscapers, state cooperative extensions, and garden clubs to obtain local tips about plants that are less attractive to deer in your area.

• Wherever possible, utilize native plants. These species are more likely to have evolved mechanisms to deter deer browsing or tolerate its impact.

Gentle harassment options

• Some humane harassment devices can be very effective. Motion-activated sprinklers work by scaring deer with sudden movement, noise, and a blast of water. Battery-operated stakes feature scent lures that deliver a mild electric shock and teach deer to avoid certain areas of the garden.

Repellent tips

• Try homemade strategies first if possible to save time and money. Hanging bars of soap on individual trees or shrubs where you want protection sometimes does the trick. Experiment with brands of soap that are high in tallow fatty acid. Others, such as glycerin soaps, may not work. With any strategy, moving things around and switching types of products will help keep deer on their toes.

• Commercial repellents can work effectively by making plants taste unpleasant to deer, or by repelling deer with sulfurous odors (i.e. rotten eggs), believed to be “fear-inducing” by giving off smells that deer associate with a predator.

• The key is to start using repellents before -- or as soon as -- you notice damage. Be diligent about reapplying regularly -- every 2 weeks and after heavy rains. Alternating differing kinds of repellents may also help.

• Predator urines are increasingly popular in garden supply stores, but have not scored well in studies which measured the effectiveness of various repellents. In addition, the likely sources of these products are “fur farms,” which raise wild animals for their pelts. Animals at these “farms” suffer from poor housing conditions and die inhumane deaths.
If all else fails

• The most effective AND permanent way to keep deer away from your plants is to install deer-proof fencing. There are a variety of fencing designs and the best type for any given area depends on your specific situation. Fencing options include: plastic mesh, electrified polytape, woven wire, and electric fence kits which come equipped with a scented lure.
The HSUS Wild Neighbors Program promotes non-lethal means for resolving conflicts between people and wildlife.

Visit the Web site,, for more information.

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