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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

14 November 2000
Fact Sheet

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Brochures - Humane Ways to Live with Deer

Rapid and continual changes in wildlife habitat have resulted in conflicts between people and deer. The replacement of forest lands and fields with suburban residential developments creates ideal "edge" habitat for deer. Mild winters and a lack of natural predators have also contributed to the recent growth in suburban deer herds. It's not known whether the current increase in deer numbers is permanent or only a temporary response to weather and habitat conditions.

Damage to residential landscape is the most commonly voiced complaint about living with deer. Despite reports of burgeoning suburban deer herds, most communities experience only minor problems. In one recent survey less than 5% of Americans reported any deer damage to their property.

Most deer damage can be successfully abated with simple techniques. A few situations require a more concerted effort. The solution to deer/people conflicts also differs by geographic region. What works in one location may not be effective in another. A combination of damage control techniques is
always more effective than a single approach and should be initiated before serious damage occurs.

This brochure describes non-lethal control of deer damage including fencing, landscape changes, scare devices, and chemical repellents. In addition, all artificial feeding of deer must be stopped. While one individual may wish to attract more deer to her property, a neighbor may be attempting to drive them away.

Deer are responding to human-initiated changes in their habitat by adapting to live in our midst. It is our responsibility to tolerate their presence and treat any conflicts in a humane manner.

Safe Driving

Each year in the U.S. an estimated 200 people are killed and 29,000 injured in deer-vehicle collisions. Over 500,000 deer lose their lives in these accidents. Increased development with more roads cutting through deer habitat, and people driving at faster speeds, have contributed to the frequency of collisions between cars and wildlife.

State highway departments are attempting to make driving safer for people and animals by installing warning signs, lowering speed limits, and cutting roadside vegetation in high risk areas. Fencing and highway overpasses and underpasses are also proving effective. Highway warning reflectors that reflect light from vehicle headlights across the road and into the roadside where deer cross have been installed in 13 states.

Vehicle-mounted whistles and ultrasonic devices, to date, have not been proven effective in scientific tests. However, in 2000, General Motors will introduce Night Vision, an infrared system which allows drivers to see down the road up to 3 to 5 times farther than traditional headlamps.

Tips to avoid hitting a deer --

Always watch for wildlife, especially at dawn, dusk, and the first few hours of darkness.

Be especially cautious in mid- to late-fall.

Glance continually from the road to the roadside, looking for movement where roads are bordered by fields or natural habitat.

Heed warning signs and reduce speed in places deer are most likely to cross the road.

If you see one deer cross, expect others.

At night, watch for reflection from headlights in the eyes of deer at the roadside.

If a deer "freezes" in your headlights, try turning your lights off and then back on.


Fencing landscape plants and crops is the most effective way to eliminate deer browsing. A variety of fencing designs have been developed. The one most suitable to a specific situation will depend on the size of the area, the topography of the site, and the type of vegetation being protected. Local university extension services, landscape companies, and nurseries should be consulted before any major purchases are made.

Perimeter fencing -- Designs include chain link, double-row wooden, solid wooden, mesh-woven wire, single or multiple-strand wire electrical, and multiple-strand vertical or slanted wire non-electrical. Electrified fences can be baited to increase effectiveness. If not electrified, fencing should be combined with chemical repellents or other deterrents for first year.

Sturdy wooden, fiberglass, or metal posts are essential. Fencing should be at least 8 feet (preferably 10 feet) high and set at least 1 foot below ground. Openings should be no more than 4 inches wide regardless of the fencing material.

Mesh netting -- Individual trees and bushes and groundcover can be successfully protected with stiff, plastic netting. The netting is simply unrolled over groundcover or draped over a bush or tree. Some mesh is virtually invisible -- especially from a distance -- and can be rolled up when not needed and reused for several years.

Netting is most effective when used for short periods during critical times; it reduces rather than eliminates browsing.

Landscape Changes

Landscaping can be altered to reduce the level of deer browsing. The selection and placement of plants has a significant impact on the extent of damage. Some plants attract deer, while others actually repel them.

Property borders and entryways can be made less attractive by lining them with resistant and repellent plants. Creating a barrier of hedges will reduce a deer's view of the garden. Grass and underbrush should be kept trimmed and fallen fruits removed promptly. Protect susceptible plants by surrounding them with repellent ones.

Repellent plants -- Catnip, Chives, Garlic, Honeybush, Lavender, Onion, Sage, Spearmint, Thyme, and Yarrow.

Resistant trees, shrubs, and vines -- Bottle brush, Daphne, Douglas fir, Euonymous, Hackberry, Holly, Jasmine, Juniper, Maple, Oleander, Limber pine, Pinon pine, Pomegranate, Rhododendron, Wild lilac, Rockrose, Santolina, Scotch broom, and Blue spruce.

Resistant flowers and groundcover -- Black-eyed Susan, Chrysanthemum, Daffodil, Foxglove, Hyacinth, Iceland poppy, Iris, Lavender, Lily of the Nile, Oriental poppy, Snowflake, and Zinnia.

Native plants are probably more tolerant of browsing. Because deer feeding preferences vary widely by region of the country, check with a local nursery or university extension service when making landscaping decisions.

Scare Devices

A variety of visual and sound scare techniques are used to chase deer away from areas. The devices are usually inexpensive and can be implemented easily and quickly. Although deer can become habituated to hazing techniques, their effectiveness can be increased if used in conjunction with other approaches such as repellents and fencing.

Visual deterrents -- Strobe lights that flash or rotate may startle deer. Lighting systems can be activated by timers or a motion detection device. Mylar tape, which is shiny and reflective, can be strung between trees or set as streamers on poles. Scarecrows, especially if they are moving, and
"scare-eye" balloons -- large beachball-like balloons filled with helium and tethered above the ground with monofilament line -- are also used.

Noise deterrents -- Playing a radio continuously or recorded distress calls of other animals may frighten away deer. Commercial ultrasonic devices are available that emit highly amplified sound waves that are nearly inaudible to humans but intolerable to deer. The noise of aluminum pie pans and tin cans rattling in the wind is also thought to help deter deer.

Sprinklers set to go off by motion detectors or by timers may work, especially if the schedule is changed often so it can't be learned by the deer.

To increase the effectiveness of deterrents, they should be used in combination and the location varied frequently. Deterrents may be objectionable to neighbors.

Chemical Repellents

A variety of commercial and home-made repellents can be used to repel deer. Repellents work either by making plants unpalatable or by giving off an offensive odor. The market for deer repellents is growing quickly and some national brands are available at nurseries and hardware stores as well as by catalog and over the Internet.

Odor repellents -- Made from ammonium soaps of fatty acids ("Hinder"); refined proteins and fibers from food-processing ("Bobbex"); soap particles ("Repel"); citrus scent ("Deer Chaser," "Deer No No"); bone tar oil ("Magic Circle"); and treated sewage ("Milorganite").

Taste repellents -- Made from denatonium benzoate ("Tree Guard," "No-Bite Tablets," "Ropel"); putrescent whole-egg solids ("Deer Away," "Not Tonight Deer"); putrescent whole eggs, capsaicin, and garlic ("Deer Off," "Deerbusters Deer Repellent"); castor oil and capsaicin ("N.I.M.B.Y."); and Thiram ("Shotgun Deer Repellent").

Make your own repellent -- Blend 4 eggs, 2 oz. red-pepper sauce, and 2 oz. chopped garlic with enough water to make 1 quart. Strain and apply with garden sprayer. Makes enough for 1 application on 16 bushes. OR place bars of soap or crushed garlic cloves in stockings and hang with string from shrubs.

Repellents are most effective if used when signs of deer first appear and not after significant damage has occurred. Never apply commercial repellents to food crops unless specifically labeled as approved.

More information about the techniques and products available to co-exist with wildlife can be obtained from the following (no product endorsement by API is implied):

Deer Proofing Your Yard and Garden, by Rhonda Massingham Hart. Storey Communications, 1997.

Gardening in Deer Country, by Vincent Drzewucki, Jr. Brick Tower Press, 1998.

Living with Wildlife, by Diana Landau and Shelly Stump. The California Center for Wildlife. Sierra Club Books, 1994.

Outwitting Critters: A Humane Guide for Confronting Devious Animals and Winning, by Bill Adler, Jr. The Lyons Press, 1992.

Wild Neighbors: The Humane Approach to Living with Wildlife, by the Humane Society of the United States. Fulcrum Publishing, 1997.

Benner's Gardens
6974 Upper York Road
New Hope, PA 18938
(perimeter fencing; mesh netting; driveway gates; chemical repellents; noise deterrents)

Route 23 & East St.
Vista, NY 10590
(chemical repellents; motion-activated sprinklers)

Master Gardening
9735A Bethel Road
Frederick, MD 21702-2017
(perimeter fencing; mesh netting; chemical repellents)

Strieter Corporation
2100 18th Avenue, Suite 1
Rock Island, IL 61201-3611
(highway reflectors)

Wildlife Control Technology
2501 N. Sunnyside Avenue, #103
Fresno, CA 93727
(perimeter fencing; mesh netting; noise deterrents)

Single copies of Fact Sheets, Reports, or Brochures are FREE. (Please contact API for multiple item prices and shipping charges.) To receive your free copy, email or call API. Please specify which Fact Sheets, Reports, or Brochures you want.


Copyright 2000. All Rights Reserved.
A national nonprofit organization dedicated to informing, educating, and advocating the humane treatment of all animals. Animal Protection Institute

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