Whitetail deer populations in the United States have increased at an alarming and astronomical rate over the last century. Researchers estimate that in the early 1900s there was a national deer population in the US between 300,000-500,000; today, they estimate that the population is anywhere between 25-30 million.
This rapid rise in population has direct and consequential effects on our forests, crops, and yards, and some researchers say that rising rates of deer populations poses the most imminent threat to the integrity of our forests—specifically on the eastern coast of the US. While deer are native to many regions in the US, they’ve expanded to damage forestry and plant life similar to that of invasive species—and this vast expansion poses oddly existential problems to the integrity of our wild domains. In short, deer can damage wildlife in two main ways: 1) They will devour nearly anything. They feed on plants in all stages of growth and will eat on any part of it. Further, because deer don’t have upper incisors—which are sharp front teeth for biting and cutting—they eat their food by ripping it from the tree or plant. This “ripping” often disallows plants from rejuvenating and re-growing. 2) Antler rubbing. Male deer begin growing antlers in late spring and shed them during the winter. Just before they shed their antlers, deer will use trees as “scratching posts” to remove a velvet covering that aids in the antlers’ growth. And, as you may have seen, this process can badly damage trees—particularly ones that have yet to reach maturity.
If you live in rural or suburban America, there’s a good chance you’ve witnessed the ill effects of deer firsthand. When you spot deer venturing on your property, it’s important to implement deterrent techniques quickly, as the comfier they become with a certain location, the harder it is to oust them. Additionally, it’s also worth remembering that deer are quite adaptable and not easily fooled: what may fool them today, may not fool them tomorrow, so it’s best to implement more than one deterrence technique to keep them on their toes and out of your yard. Let’s take a quick look at a few ways to keep them away:
- Deer repellent sprays. There is an abundance of various DIY home remedies out there, in addition to the ones available at your local hardware store. Reviews of these are often mixed, but if you’re working with a small yard or garden, it may be worth a try. Regardless, it’s vital to reapply frequently for best results.
- A fence. While it may not be practical to fence off your entire property, it may be worth considering a fence around your garden. While many fences (like wooden or electric ones) can be quite expensive to install, there are also more affordable options, like metal and polypropylene.
- Motion triggered deterrence. These encompass devices like motion-activated sprinklers, lights, and sounds. Though the success rate of such systems can be impressive, keep in mind it may not be practical to set these up across a large yard.
- Visual deterrents. Again, it seems there are limitless DIY options when it comes to using visual deterrents against deer. Hanging pie pans, tin foil, and other colorful things on trees may scare off deer initially, but they’ll likely grow indifferent to such efforts if they become frequent visitors to your property.
As mentioned, for best results, keep the deer on their toes by implementing more than one deterrence technique. The more uncomfortable you can make them while on your property, the less of a chance you’ll have of them calling your yard home.