KSL GREENHOUSE

Preventing Deer Damage

May 21, 2016, 11:39 AM | Updated: Jul 19, 2022, 10:41 am

Quick Facts…

It is difficult to move deer out of areas where they are not wanted. A hungry deer will find almost any plant palatable, so no plant is “deer proof.” The two types of deer repellents are contact repellents and area repellents. Netting can reduce deer damage to small trees. Adequate fencing to exclude deer is the only sure way to control deer damage.

Although browsing deer are charming to watch, they can cause extensive damage by feeding on plants and rubbing antlers against trees. In urban areas, home landscapes may become the major source of food. Deer can pose a serious aesthetic and economic threat. Damage is most commonly noticed in spring on new, succulent growth. Because deer lack upper incisors, browsed twigs and stems show a rough, shredded surface. Damage caused by rabbits, on the other hand, has a neat, sharp 45-degree cut. Rodents leave narrow teeth marks when feeding on branches. Deer strip the bark and leave no teeth marks.

Management Strategies

It is difficult to move deer out of areas where they are not wanted. Not all strategies are practical for every homeowner. Frightening deer with gas exploders, strobe lights, pyrotechnics or tethered dogs typically provides only temporary relief. More practical management strategies include selecting plants unattractive to deer, treating plants with deer repellents, netting and tubing, and fencing.

Placement and Selection of Plants

The placement of plants in part determines the extent of damage. Plant more susceptible species near the home, in a fenced area, or inside a protective ring of less-preferred species. Table 1 lists plants and their susceptibility to deer damage. A hungry deer will find almost any plant palatable, so no plant is “deer proof.” Also, a plant species may be damaged rarely in one area but damaged severely in another.

Repellents

The two types of deer repellents are contact repellents and area repellents. Contact repellents are applied directly to plants, causing them to taste bad. Area repellents are placed in a problem area and repel by their foul odor. Repellents are generally more effective on less preferred plants.

Apply repellents on a dry day with temperatures above freezing. Treat young trees completely. Older trees may be treated only on their new growth. Treat to a height 6 feet above the maximum expected snow depth. Deer browse from the top down. Hang or apply repellents at the bud or new growth level of the plants you wish to protect.

A spray of 20 percent whole eggs and 80 percent water is one of the most effective repellents. To prevent the sprayer from clogging, remove the chalaza or white membrane attached to the yolk before mixing the eggs. The egg mixture is weather resistant but must be reapplied in about 30 days. See Table 2 for a list of commercially available repellents and their ratings against deer and elk browsing in Colorado.

Home-remedy repellents are questionable at best. These include small, fine-mesh bags of human hair (about two handfuls) and bar soap hung from branches of trees. Replace both soap and hair bags monthly. Deer have been reported to eat the soap bars. Materials that work in one area or for one person may not work at all in an area more highly frequented by deer.

Netting and Tubing

Tubes of Vexar netting around individual seedlings are an effective method to reduce deer damage to small trees. The material degrades in sunlight and breaks down in three to five years. These tubes can protect just the growing terminals or can completely enclose small trees. Attach tubes to a support stake to keep them upright. Another option is flexible, sunlight-degradable netting that expands to slip over seedlings. Both products are available from Colorado State Forest Service offices.

Paper or Reemay budcaps form a protective cylinder around the terminal leader and bud. They may help reduce browse damage. Budcaps are rectangular pieces of material folded lengthwise and stapled around the terminal leader.

Tubes placed around the trunks of larger trees will help prevent trunk damage. Tubes may not, however, protect trunks from damage when bucks use the trees to scrape the velvet off their antlers. Fencing may be required.

Fencing

Adequate fencing to exclude deer is the only sure way to control deer damage. The conventional deer-proof fence is 8 feet high and made of woven wire. Electric fences also can be used. Electric fences should be of triple-galvanized, high-tensile, 13.5-gauge wire carrying a current of 35 milliamps and 3,000 to 4,500 volts. Several configurations of electric fences are used: vertical five-, seven-, or nine-wire; slanted seven-wire; single strand; and others. When using a single strand electric fence it helps the deer to ‘notice’ that the wire is there if it is marked with cloth strips, reflective tape or something similar. Otherwise, the deer may not see it in time and go right through it.

Additional options include invisible mesh barriers, slanting deer fences, and single-wire, electric fences baited with peanut butter. The invisible mesh barriers are polypropylene fences of various mesh sizes, typically 8 feet high with a high tensile strength, that blend in with the surroundings. The baited fences attract deer to the fence instead of what’s inside the fence. They administer a safe correction that trains the deer to stay away. They are effective for small Gardens, nurseries and orchards (up to 3 to 4 acres) that are subject to moderate deer pressure. Deer are attracted by the peanut butter and encouraged to make nose-to-fence contact. Deer, like many wild animals, seem to respect and respond better to electric fencing after they become familiar with the fenced area. Additional information on fences and their construction can be found in Deer (Craven and Hygnstrom), available from Colorado State University Extension offices. (See references.)

Today’s Top Stories

KSL Greenhouse

Gardening writer Jeff Lowenfels identifies five classic holiday plants: paperwhites, poinsettias, C...
JEFF LOWENFELS Associated Press

5 plants that say `holiday season,’ and how to care for them

Gardening writer Jeff Lowenfels identifies five plants that are holiday classics: paperwhites, poinsettias, Christmas trees, amaryllis and Christmas cactus.
22 hours ago
Indoor Plants Image...
Carlos Artiles Fortun

KSL Greenhouse: How to manage houseplant pests

This time of the year it can be easy for houseplant pests to enter your house while you are protecting your plants for winter.
10 days ago
On the latest episode of the KSL Greenhouse Show, hosts Maria Shialos and Taun Beddes discuss the ...
Carlos Artiles Fortun

Transitioning plants indoors for the winter

On the latest episode of the KSL Greenhouse Show, hosts Maria Shialos and Taun Beddes discuss the best way to transfer plants indoors slowly for better acclamation.
12 days ago
Prepare your motorized lawn equipment for winter storage....
Carlos Artiles Fortun

Prepare your motorized lawn equipment for winter storage

On the latest episode of the KSL Greenhouse Show, hosts Maria Shialos and Taun Beddes give you some tips on preparing your motorized lawn equipment for winter storage.
18 days ago
Taun Beddes, host of KSL Greenhouse explains how to best take care of our trees and keep them healt...
Carlos Artiles Fortun

Tree wrapping, why you should protect trees for the winter

Taun Beddes, host of KSL Greenhouse explains how to best take care of our trees and keep them healthy during the winter.
23 days ago
Jaydee Gunnell, professor at USU, joined the KSL Greenhouse show to discuss why we should be pulli...
Carlos Artiles Fortun

Time to pull annuals and cut back perennials

Jaydee Gunnell, professor at USU, joined the KSL Greenhouse show to discuss why we should be cutting back perennials.
25 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Preventing Deer Damage