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Controlling Deer

Deer are one of the most attractive animals to watch, especially when accompanied by their young. Unfortunately, with the growing deer population throughout North America, deer can often cause damage in the garden and around the home, especially to tender tree growth and flowers.

A full-grown deer will weigh about 150 lbs and typically will live about 14 to 18 years in the wild. Deer are normally nocturnal, but can occasionally be spotted foraging for food during the day.

When watching a deer it is very obvious that they rely a great deal on their sense of hearing as their ears are constantly in motion searching for even the slightest sound. Some believe that the hearing of a deer is so sensitive that they can even determine how far away a sound was made. Since deer have very sensitive hearing, it is almost impossible for a predator to sneak up on a deer without being detected.

When a deer hears a noise, it will instinctively raise its head, position its hears in the direction of the sound and focus its other senses such as smell and sight to identify other signs of danger.

Another important feature of deer is the placement of their eyes at the side of their head, rather than the front. This enables the deer to have almost 300 degrees of viewing around then, which allows them to have a constant view of most of their surroundings. The downside of this ‘wide-angle’ view is that a deer cannot focus both eyes on one area and as a result they have very poor depth perception. Deer are also colour blind. Despite this, deer are able to see in the ultraviolet light range which allows them to have enhanced visual sensitivity during the early morning and late afternoon.

Deer have a very developed and sensitive sense of smell which is used to detect approaching predators and danger. Their nose is moist like that of a dog and can pick-up the faintest of smells. Since deer have a very keen sense of smell, repellent products that use smell, such as predator urines, can be used very effectively to repel deer from specific areas.

When feeding, deer are primarily browsers who enjoy vegetables, plant buds, tender tree growth, bark, fruit and some flowers. Deer have no front teeth so when they are eating seedlings and other foliage they tear it away and leave ragged edges. The appearance of ragged or torn edges on a plant or tree is a sign of deer damage, whereas rabbits and most rodents bite the foliage and make a clean cut.

There are many different ways to control the damage done by deer and to repel them away from valuable plants and trees. Control methods include ultrasonic sounds, automated sprayers, physical barriers and smell-based repellents.

Q: Can lights be used to keep deer from feeding in certain areas?

A: There are several different ways that light can be used to keep unwanted deer away, including "scare or frighten” lights or "predator” lights.

The scare or frighten light is a short light burst that frightens the animal. Most of the time the light is motion-activated and the light burst scares the deer when they come into a specific area. An example of this type of repellant device would be "Deer Chaser” which emits a light burst when the motion sensor identifies deer in the area. DeerChaser frightens the deer and their natural response is to flee the immediate area.

Another type of light emitting device which scares deer away, as well as other animals such as raccoons, is one that mimics the eyes of a predator. The NiteGuard emits a special red light that appears to be the reflection of a predator’s eye. It tricks the deer and raccoons into thinking there is a larger predator in the area and the natural response of the deer and raccoons is to avoid any areas where they believe a larger predator is active.

Q: Does deer fencing actually work to repel deer?

A: Yes, deer fencing can be effectively used to prevent deer from grazing in vegetable gardens and around valuable plants. Most deer fencing is a flexible mesh material which is hung on wood or metal fence stakes. The fencing should be at least 6 feet tall to prevent deer from reaching over the fencing. Deer fencing generally does not work as a physical barrier that prevents the deer from entering the area, but instead, as the mesh rubs up against the deer’s body, it is an unfamiliar and freighting sensation that normally discourages grazing and frightens them from staying in the area. It is therefore important that the fencing is attached to secure fence posts which will prevent a deer from walking through the netting. Fencing can also be electrified at the top to provide a slight shock for the deer, which is bound to scare them away from the area. Fi-Shock Electric Fencing is a safe way to electrify a deer fence.

Q: Is there anything I can spray right on my trees to prevent the deer from eating them, eliminating the need to erect fencing or something that detracts from my landscape design?

A: Yes, there are several products that can be applied directly to your plants to prevent deer grazing. They are both very effective, but work slightly differently. In cases of excessive deer problems, both sprays can be used in a complementary fashion on the same plants to enhance their effectiveness.

The first spray is called Deer Away. This product was originally developed by the US Forestry Service and Weyerhaeuser to protect newly planted seedlings before deer took their first bite. This product is unique because it repels deer by tricking them into thinking that the food in the area is rancid and that they should not eat it. Deer Away is made from food ingredients derived from egg and binds to the plant so that it does not get washed off in the rain. Normally Deer Away will last about two months on the plant or tree before a second treatment is required. The smell is strong enough for deer and other animals to smell, but humans do not smell it once it dries and binds to the plant.

Another spray is called Plantskydd which was developed in Sweden to protect tree plantations from being decimated by deer, moose and rabbits. It is effective on trees, flowers, fruit trees, gardens and ornamental shrubs. It is made from 100% natural ingredients including dried blood and vegetable oil. Plantskydd repels by emitting an odour (not unpleasant to applicators) which browsing animals associate with predatory activity in the area. This elicits a fear-based response that will have garden feeders such as deer looking elsewhere to dine.

Q: How does Bobbex work as a deer repellent?

A: Bobbex Deer Repellent is a proven effective foliar spray used to deter and prevent deer from browsing and causing damage to ornamental plantings, shrubs, trees and plants. Bobbex is a blend of all natural ingredients that are beneficial and totally innocuous to plant development. Bobbex uses only natural ingredients and works to stop deer browsing by combining both smell and taste deterrents.

Q: Is there a water sprayer that can be used to keep deer away?

A: Yes, a motion-activated water repeller is an excellent way to protect vegetable gardens and shrubs from grazing visitors. The ScareCrow Outdoor Animal Deterrent is easy to use and convenient. It is a motion-activated sprinkler which instantly releases a short but startling burst of water when it detects an animal in the area. The burst of water instantly scares the deer and other animals away. The motion sensor range extends about 35 feet out from the ScareCrow spray unit. In addition to scaring deer away, the ScareCrow sprayer can be used to discourage domestic dogs and cats, raccoons and predatory birds attacking fishponds.

Q: I like to feed my deer, but still want to stop them form eating my plants. Is this possible?

A: Many people do like to feed deer. Putting out food for deer can serve as an attractant to bring more deer to your yard, but can also ensure they have a reliable food source, especially in the winter, and encourage them not to eat valuable plants. The best way to do this would be to put out a good food source for deer at the far edge of your property and them spray your valuable plants with Deer Away or Plantskydd so that the deer can easily distinguish between acceptable food sources and plants you are protecting.

Q: Are there plants and trees that a deer will not eat?

A: Yes, there are many deer resistant varieties of plants available, which deer will not eat or that are less attractive to deer. Keep in mind that if there are no alternative food sources and an animal is hungry they will eat almost anything.