Deer are extraordinarily adaptable animals. Like coyotes, they have slowly woven their way into the fabric of modern society, adjusting to vastly different circumstances living in an urban vs wild environment. Adaptive traits find them learning how to sneak around fences, gauge the length of a dog’s chain, survive in traffic and ignore the noise of cars.
Deer use all five senses; sight, aural, smell, taste, and touch. They are well equipped to avoid danger and predation. The savvy homeowner can take advantage of these senses. Exploiting their weaknesses provides us different ways to challenge their feeling of security, get them out of our yard and back to the wilds.
All deer are neophobic; they are afraid of anything new. Things that appear strange and unpredictable spell danger to a deer.
Key strategies to deterring deer:
Use several different tactics and rotate them throughout the season(s).
Change tactics before the deer become used to them.
Take advantage of all five senses and their natural instinct to flee.
A deer’s first line of defence is their sense of smell. With a nose up to 8 times larger than a dog, they can detect and evaluate scents, locate food sources, follow trails and locate their young. Overwhelming their olfactory glands with a pungent concoction, or one that confuses or overrides the attracting smells can deter deer from being comfortable in the area, and loitering in your garden. However, what may be highly repulsive to a deer, may also be equally obnoxious to a human wanting to enjoy gardening, or a backyard BBQ.
Smell deterrents include:
Top dress gardens with a mulch/compost which has a portion of human sewage in its recipe. Spread around the base of plants – along with fish fertilizer. Cornell University showed favourable results from this combination.
Hanging scented soaps from ropes up to three feet away from beloved plants.
Avoid coconut or edible oils as they attract other wildlife.
Garlic and Rotten eggs: a sulphery messy mix allowed to ferment and then hand sprayed onto plant material.
Commercially prepared spray-on deterrents available at most gardening or hardware stores.
Hang human hair clippings (stuffed into nylon stocking feet, or in small cheesecloth bags),
move often and rotate soap for hair.
The best deterrent is ‘vigilance’. Whatever you decide to do, keep at it, rotate tactics and olfactory deterrents.
A list of web sites for olfactory concoctions:
Next time: the remaining four senses and corresponding deterrents
RDOS Bear Aware/WildSafeBC Community Coordinator