Discouraging deer proves to be a challenge
This is further to your excellent article on deer in the March 27 Home and Garden issue.
Before the present population settled in the Penticton area, there were very few deer in the areas now “gardened”. The original vegetation: sagebrush, antelope bush, cacti, etc., were not attractive deer food. Deer on the other hand were great sources of food to the indigenous peoples.
So, we haven’t “taken over” deer habitat. Instead, we have stopped the killing of deer, and with irrigation have filled the area with luscious plants and fruit that deer in past ages could only dream about. Deer, in unprecedented numbers, have moved in from their ancestral home, the surrounding hills, to take in the bounty we are now providing. We have had as many as 14 deer in our yard at one time. A couple of days ago I saw a herd of six browsing among our neighbour’s cedars across the street.
Deer fencing at present is the only answer, but it has to be tough, and anchored well. Over the years, I have had bucks slash through deer netting, and later the light chicken wire I replaced it with. They also have wormed their way under loose fencing. These episodes have occurred at night, when I have had particularly tasty yummies, i.e. tulips or budding roses, to give the bucks an incentive. I know they were big bucks from the large, deep hoof prints, and larger than average droppings they left as calling cards.
Deer in our area are third generation, and have learned to ignore the ultrasound emitters, barking dogs, the pepper, soap, blood, sulphur, sprays, even the presence of people. One neighbour’s dog was injured by a kick from a deer.
In areas that can’t be fenced, planting has to be changed. For evergreens, juniper, pine or fir must replace cedar, cypress yew or hemlock. The ornamental shrub in my yard that is top of deer’s taste treats is Euonymus. Dusty Miller, and its relations, plus any of the sage or lavender family have gone untouched, when even our begonias have been demolished. Succulents, such as “hen and chickens” have been cleaned out during winter season, when all the tasty morsels are gone.
For those who enjoy gardening, growing our own food as well as beautiful plants, it is quite a challenge. We don’t want to make our yards look like concentration camps with ugly fencing and heavy gates.