The white-tailed deer is one of the most common species and can be found throughout the United States, except for in parts of the far west. Bucks, adult male deer, can weigh more than 400 pounds and usually live in small groups. Does, adult female deer, can weigh up to forty percent less than bucks, and live in larger groups that include their offspring.
Mating season, known as rut, occurs between October and January, with one to three fawns usually born in May or June. White-tailed deer are crepuscular, meaning they are active most often at dawn and dusk - these are the times of day when they feed the most and when does return to their fawns to feed or move them.
Gardens and landscaping are common casualties to deer browsing. A herd of deer can create a noticeable “browse line” where every leaf, bud, and soft vegetation will be chewed from the ground to deer height, three to six feet up. If you begin to notice the vegetation disappearing from your yard or garden, keep an eye out for deer tracks or pellet-like droppings, another indicator that you may have visitors foraging through your yard.
There are numerous methods to deter and repel deer from your yard or garden.
The first, and most essential for keeping deer out of your yard long-term, is to include deer-proof plants in your landscaping. These plants are unappetizing and largely avoided whether it’s because they have spines, a coarse texture, or a powerful odor. You can speak with your local nursery on what kinds of vegetation would be appropriate for your yard and considered deer-proof.
In the case of heavy browsing in or around your garden, the most effective and long-term way to prevent deer from getting to your plants is to install fencing around the area. There are many varieties of fencing available that are functional for this purpose, ranging from simple and cheap woven wire to electric wiring or decorative fencing. Keep in mind that deer can jump as high as eight feet, so to be effective, your fencing may need to be quite high and anchored to the ground to prevent deer from crawling under it. If you have very few plants and fencing is impractical and expensive, consider purchasing deer netting, which can be wrapped around a plant and prevent deer from getting to the leaves and flowers.
For occasional deer browsing, you can use one of the many brands of deer scent and taste repellants, preferably one that is oil-based to prevent it from washing off easily after rain. These repellants coat the plant with a liquid that tastes and smells bad to a deer, causing them to leave the area. While not quite as effective, you can also make your own repellants using things like soap, garlic, or human hair in netting and tying it to one of the targeted areas.
Another option is to purchase a device like the Scarecrow, which uses a motion sensor to detect and spraying a burst of water in that direction, effectively frightening off deer looking for a meal. As with any kind of animal repellant, it’s extremely important to begin using it as soon as you see damage done by deer or other animals, and to be sure to reapply it often, especially after rain.
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