Posted by Kurt M. Jones, Chaffee County Extension DirectorThis morning, I found some “evidence” that our front yard has played host to several deer in the previous evenings. Not wanting to leave their droppings on the lawn, I added that to the “To-Do” (pun intended) list. When animal numbers increase or habitat decreases, deer move into yards in search of food.
In some areas, home landscapes may become the major source of food. Deer can pose a serious threat to the health of plants growing around homes. Damage is commonly noticed on new, succulent growth in the spring. Tulips, beware!
Because deer lack upper incisors, browsed twigs and stems will have a rough, shredded surface. Damage caused by rabbits will instead have a crisp, sharp 45-degree cut. Of course, deer have very distinctive foot prints and can damage trees up to 6 feet in height, ruling out other rodents and mammals.
Prevention of damage by deer is justified in many horticultural and agricultural settings. Deer are protected from harvesting except during licensed big-game hunting seasons and other special circumstances. Using exclusion as a means of damage control may be justified.
Fencing is one of the most effective means of protecting trees and plants from browsing. Unfortunately, fencing can become expensive and unsightly (a ten foot tall woven wire fence may not be desirable in some areas). There are several ways to work with fencing to help protect your trees and orchards.
The use of repellents has grown in popularity in recent times. Capsaicin (hot sauce) has been used in numerous trials with varying success. It has been listed as being very effective against deer and elk in trials in strong enough concentrations. One determining factor is how hungry the deer are and how the weather has affected the treatment.
Another effective means of repelling deer is to use a 20-25 percent mixture of chicken eggs and water. This mixture can be sprayed on the twigs of the trees and has a relatively long effective time of effectiveness (depending on weather).
Other repellents such as soap bars, human hair, and predator urine have shown to have moderate to low effectiveness for keeping deer away from favorite plants.
Tenacity seems to be the best offense to defend your favorite plants against browsing deer. In the mean time, I'm off to scoop up the evidence.