Damage Prevention and Control Methods
Where deer are abundant or crops are particularly valuable, fencing may be the only way to effectively minimize deer damage. Several fencing designs are available to meet specific needs. Temporary electric fences are simple inexpensive fences useful in protecting garden and field crops during snow-free periods. Deer are attracted to these fences by their appearance or smell, and are lured into contacting the fence with their noses. The resulting shock is a very strong stimulus and deer learn to avoid the fenced area. Permanent high-tensile electric fences provide year-round protection from deer and are best suited to high-value specialty or orchard crops. The electric shocking power and unique fence designs present both psychological and physical barriers to deer. Permanent woven-wire fences provide the ultimate deer barrier. They require little maintenance but are very expensive to build. Fencing in general is expensive. You should consider several points before constructing a fence, such as:
History of the area- assemble information on past claims, field histories, deer numbers, and movements to help you decide on an abatement method.
Deer pressure — this reflects both the number of deer and their level of dependence on agricultural crops. If deer pressure in your area is high, you probably need fences.
Crop value — crops with high market values and perennial crops where damage affects future yields and growth often needs the protection fencing can provide.
Field size — in general, fencing is practical for areas of 40 acres (16 ha) or less. The cost per acre (ha) for fencing usually decreases, however, as the size of the area protected increases.
Cost-benefit analysis — to determine the cost effectiveness of fencing and the type of fence to install, weigh the value of the crop to be protected against the acreage involved, costs of fence construction and maintenance, and the life expectancy of the fence.
Rapidly changing fence technology — if you intend to build a fence yourself, supplement the following directions by consulting an expert, such as a fencing contractor. Detailed fencing manuals are also available from most fencing manufacturers and sales representatives.
Temporary Electric Fencing Temporary electric fences provide inexpensive protection for many crops during periods without snow. They are easy to construct, do not require rigid corners, and materials are readily available. Install fences at the first sign of damage to prevent deer from establishing feeding patterns in your crops. Weekly inspection and maintenance are required. Different types of temporary electric fences are described below.
Peanut Butter Fence. The peanut butter fence is effective for small gardens, nurseries, and orchards (up to 3 to 4 acres [1.2 to 1.6 ha]) subject to moderate deer pressure. Deer are attracted by the peanut butter and encouraged to make nose-to-fence contact. After being shocked, deer learn to avoid fenced areas. Cost, excluding labor, is about $0.11 per linear foot ($0.30/m). This fence is not widely used.
To build a peanut butter fence (Fig. 6), follow the steps below. (1) Install wooden corner posts. (2) String one strand of 17-gauge (0.15-cm), smooth wire around the corners and apply light tension. (3) Set 4-foot (1.2-m) 3/8-inch (1-cm) round fiberglass rods along the wire at 45-foot (14-m) intervals. (4) Attach the wire to insulators on the rods 2 1/2 (0.75 m) feet above ground level and apply 50 pounds (22.5 kg) of tension. (5) Attach 3 x 4-inch (7 x 10-cm) foil strips to the wire at 3-foot (1-m) intervals, using 1 x 2-inch (3 x 5-cm) strips of cloth adhesive tape. (6) Apply a 1:1 mixture of peanut butter and vegetable oil to the adhesive tape strips and fold the foil over the tape. (7) Connect the wire to the positive (+) post of a well-grounded fence charger.
For fields larger than 1 acre (0.4 ha), it is more practical to apply the peanut butter mixture directly to the wire. You can make a simple applicator by mounting a free-spinning, 4-inch (10-cm) pulley on a shaft inside a plastic ice cream pail. Fill the pail with a peanut butter-vegetable oil mixture that has the consistency of very thick paint. Coat the entire wire with peanut butter by drawing the pulley along the wire. Apply peanut butter once a month. Attach foil flags to the fence near runways or areas of high deer pressure to make the fence more attractive. Check the fence weekly for damage by deer and grounding by vegetation.
Polytape Fence. Various forms of polytape or polywire, such as Visible Grazing Systems®(VGS), Baygard®, and Turbo-tape® are very strong and portable. You can use these fences to protect up to 40 acres (16 ha) of vegetable and field crops under moderate deer pressure. Deer receive shocks through nose-to-fence contact and they learn to avoid fenced areas. Cost, excluding labor, is about $0.11 per linear foot ($0.30/m).
To build a polytape fence (Fig. 7), follow the steps below. (1) Drive 5/8-inch (1.6-cm) round fiberglass posts 2 feet (0.6 m) into the ground at the corners. (2) String two strands of polytape (white or yellow are most visible) around the corners and apply light tension (one strand 2 1/2 feet (0.75 m) high can be used). (3) Use square knots or half-hitches to make splices or to secure the polytape to corner posts. (4) Set 4-foot (1.2-cm) 3/8-inch (1-cm) round fiberglass rods along the wires at 45-foot (14-m) intervals. (5) Attach the two strands of polytape to insulators on the rods at 1 and 3 feet (0.3 and 0.9 m) above ground level and apply 50 pounds (22.5 kg) of tension. (6) Connect the polytape to the positive (+) post of a well-grounded fence charger. (7) Use the applicator described under Peanut Butter Fence to apply 2-foot (0.6-m) swatches of peanut butter to the polytape every 6 feet (2 m) where deer presence is expected to be high. To maintain the fence, check it weekly for damage by deer and grounding by vegetation.
Permanent High-Tensile Electric Fencing. High-tensile fencing can provide year-round protection from deer damage. Many designs are available to meet specific needs. All require strict adherence to construction guidelines concerning rigid corner assemblies and fence configurations. Frequent inspection and maintenance are required. High-tensile fences are expected to last 20 to 30 years. Different types of high-tensile electric fences are described below.
Offset or Double Fence. This fence is mostly for gardens, truck farms, or nurseries up to about 40 acres (0.16 ha) that experience moderate deer pressure. Deer are repelled by the shock and the three-dimensional nature of the fence. You can add wires if deer pressure increases. Cost, excluding labor, is about $0.35 per linear foot ($1/m).
To build an offset or double fence (Fig. 8), follow the steps below. For the outside fence: (1) Install swing corner assemblies where necessary (see the section on fence construction—rigid brace assemblies [Fig. 14]). (2) String a 12 1/2-gauge (0.26-cm) high-tensile wire around the outside of the swing corner assemblies and apply light tension. (3) Set 5-foot (1.5-m) line posts along the wire at 40- to 60-foot (12- to 18-m) intervals. (4) Attach the wire to insulators on the line posts, 15 inches (38 cm) above ground level and apply 150 to 250 pounds (68 to 113 kg) of tension. (5) String a second wire at 43 inches (109 cm) and apply 150 to 250 pounds (68 to 113 kg) of tension.
For the inside fence: (6) String a wire around the inside of the swing corner assemblies and apply light tension. (7) Set 5-foot (1.5-m) line posts along the wire at 40- to 60-foot (12- to 18-m) intervals. (8) Attach the wire to insulators on the line posts at 30 inches (76 cm) above ground level. (9) Attach all wires to the positive (+) post of a well-grounded, low impedence fence charger. (10) Clear and maintain a 6-to 12-foot (1.8- to 3.6-m) open area outside the fence so deer can see it. Maintenance includes weekly fence and voltage checks.
Vertical Deer Fence. Vertical fences are effective at protecting large truck gardens, orchards, and other fields from moderate to high deer pressures. Because of the prescribed wire spacing, when deer either attempt to go through the fence and are effectively shocked, or they are physically impeded by the barrier. Vertical fences use less ground space than three-dimensional fences, but are probably less effective at inhibiting deer from jumping over fences. There is a wide variety of fence materials, wire spacing, and specific designs you can use. We recommend that you employ a local fence contractor. Costs, excluding labor, range from $0.75 to $1.50 per linear foot ($2 to $4/m).
To build a 7-wire, vertical deer fence (Fig. 9), follow the steps below.
(1) Install rigid corner assemblies where necessary (see the section on fence construction—rigid brace assemblies [Fig. 14]). (2) String a 12 1/2-gauge (0.26-cm) high-tensile wire around the corner assemblies and apply light tension. (3) Set 8-foot (2.4-m) line posts along the wire at 33-foot (10-m) intervals. (4) Attach a wire to insulators at 8 inches (20 cm) above ground level and apply 150 to 250 pounds (68 to 113 kg) of tension. (5) Attach the remaining wires to insulators at the spacing indicated in figure 9 and apply 150 to 250 pounds (68 to 113 kg) of tension. (6) Connect the second, fourth, fifth, and seventh wires from the top, to the positive (+) post of a well-grounded, low-impedance fence charger. (7) Connect the top, third, and sixth wires directly to ground. The top wire should be negative for lightning protection. (8) Clear and maintain a 6- to 12-foot (1.8- to 3.6-m) open area outside the fence so deer can see the fence. Maintenance includes weekly fence inspection and voltage checks.
Slanted Seven-Wire Deer Fence. This fence is used where high deer pressures threaten moderate-to-large sized orchards, nurseries and other high-value crops. It presents a physical and psychological barrier to deer because of its electric shock and three-dimensional nature. Cost, excluding labor, is about $0.75 to $2 per linear foot ($2 to $5.50/m).
To build a slanted seven-wire deer fence (Fig. 10), follow the steps below. (1) Set rigid, swing corner assemblies where necessary, (see the section on fence construction—rigid brace assemblies [Fig. 14]). (2) String 12 1/2-gauge (0.26-cm) high-tensile wire around the corner assemblies and apply light tension. (3) Set angle braces along the wire at 90-foot (27-m) intervals. (4) Attach a wire at the 10-inch (25-cm) position and apply 150 pounds (68 kg) of tension. (5) Attach the remaining wires at 12-inch (30-cm) intervals and apply 150 pounds (68 kg) of tension. (6) Place fence battens at 30-foot (9-m) intervals. (7) Connect the top, third, fifth, and bottom wires to the positive (+) post of a well-grounded, low-impedence fence charger. (8) Connect the second, fourth, and sixth wires from the top directly to ground. (9) Clear and maintain a 6- to 12-foot (1.8- to 3.6-m) area outside the fence so deer can see it. Maintenance includes weekly inspection and voltage checks.
Permanent Woven-Wire Fencing. Woven-wire fences are used for year-round protection of high-value crops subject to high deer pressures. These fences are expensive and difficult to construct, but easy to maintain. Before high-tensile electric fencing, woven-wire fences were used most often to protect orchards or nurseries where the high crop value, perennial nature of damage, acreage, and 20-year life span of the fences justified the initial costs. Cost, excluding labor, is about $2 to $4 per linear foot ($5.50 to $11/m). The high cost has resulted in reduced use of woven-wire fences.
To build a deer-proof woven-wire fence (Fig. 11), follow the steps below.
(1) Set rigid corner assemblies where necessary (see the section on Fence Construction—Rigid brace assemblies [Fig. 14]). (2) String a light wire between two corners and apply light tension. (3) Set 16-foot (4.9-m) posts along the wire at 40-foot (12-m) intervals, to a depth of 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 m). (4) Roll out an 8-foot (2.4-m) roll of high-tensile woven wire along the line posts. Attach one end at ground level to a corner post with steel staples. (5) Apply 100 pounds (45 kg) of tension to the wire with a vehicle or fence strainers and attach the wire to line and corner posts with steel staples. (6) Repeat steps 4 and 5 as necessary around the perimeter of the fence. (7) Attach two strands of high-tensile smooth wire to the top of the fence to raise the height of the entire fence to 9 to 10 feet (2.7 to 3 m). (8) Minimal maintenance is required. Inspect for locations where deer can crawl under the fence.
Materials. Do not buy cheap materials to reduce costs. This will only reduce the effectiveness and life span of the fence. We recommend using:
(1) Round fiberglass or treated wood posts. (2) High-quality galvanized wire and steel components. For high-tensile fences, use 11- to 14-gauge (0.31-to 0.21-cm) wire (minimum tensile strength of 200,000 pounds [90,000 kg] and a minimum breaking strength of 1,800 pounds [810 kg]), tension springs, and in-line tensioners. (3) Compression sleeves for splicing wires and making electrical connections. (4) Lightning arresters and diverters to protect chargers. (5) High-quality fence chargers. Chargers must be approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). We highly recommend 110-volt chargers. Six-and 12-volt chargers require battery recharging every 2 to 4 weeks. Use solar panels in remote areas to charge batteries continuously. For high-tensile fences, use high-voltage, low-impedence chargers only (3,000 to 5,000 volts and current pulse duration of at most 1/1,000 second).
(6) Gates. There is no universal gate design because of the many different fence types. Gates should be electrified, well-insulated, and practical for the type of farming operation. Gates range from single strands of electrified wire with gate handles to electrified panel or tubular gates (Fig. 12).
Fence Construction. Fences must be properly constructed--do not deviate from fence construction guidelines.
(1) Prepare fence lines before construction. It is easier and less expensive to install and maintain fences on clear, level runs. Minimize corners to increase strength and reduce costs. (2) Ensure that the electrical system is well grounded at the fence charger and every 1/2 mile (880 m) of fence line. To ground high-tensile fences, drive four to six ground rods 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 1.8 m) deep and 6 feet (1.8 m) apart. Connect the ground post of the fence charger and the negative (-) wires of the fence to the grounding system (Fig. 13).
(3) The wiring system in figure 13 illustrates a positive-negative fence. Such a design is especially useful with dry or frozen ground. A fence with all positive (hot) wires may be advantageous under general crop and soil moisture conditions. Consult with a fencing contractor or expert for the best choice for your needs. (4) Install the grounding systems and fence charger before fence construction. Energize completed parts of the fence when you are not working on the fence to gain early protection.
(5) Rigid brace assemblies—corners, ends, and gates—make up the backbone of all high-tensile fence systems (Fig. 14). They must be entirely rigid, constructed of the best materials, and strictly conform to design guidelines. The single-span brace assembly is the basis of all high-tensile strainer assemblies, regardless of location in the fence or fence design. This basic design is then modified to create double-”H” braces, swing corners, and gate ends. (6) Allow wires to slide freely through insulators on fence posts. Fence flexibility is necessary to endure frequent temperature changes, deer hits, and obstructions.
(7) Identify an electric fence with warning signs (Fig. 15) that are affixed at 300-foot (90-m) intervals or less.
Maintenance. Regular inspection and maintenance are necessary to ensure the effective operation and longevity of most fences.
(1) Control vegetation near fences by mowing or applying herbicides to avoid excessive fence grounding by weeds. (2) On slopes or highly erodible soils, maintain a good sod cover. (3) Always keep the fence charger on. Check the fence voltage weekly with a voltmeter. Maintain at least 3,000 volts at the furthest distance from the fence charger. Disconnect the lower wires if they are covered by snow. (4) In late fall and early summer, adjust the fence tension (150 to 250 pounds [68 to 113 kg]) for high-tensile fences.
Tree Protectors. Use Vexar®, Tubex®, plastic tree wrap, or woven-wire cylinders to protect young trees from deer and rabbits. Four-foot (1.2-m) woven-wire cylinders can keep deer from rubbing tree trunks with their antlers.
Haystack Protection. Wooden panels have traditionally been used to exclude deer and elk from haystacks. Stockyards have also been protected by welded-wire panels and woven wire. More recently haystacks have been protected by wrapping them with plastic Tensar® snow fence. The material comes in 8-foot (2.4-m) rolls and is relatively light and easy to use.
Cultural Methods and Habitat Modification
Damage to ornamental plants can be minimized by selecting landscape and garden plants that are less preferred by deer. In many cases, original landscape objectives can be met by planting species that have some resistance to deer damage. Table 1 provides a list of plants, ranked by susceptibility to deer damage. This list, developed by researchers at Cornell University, is applicable for most eastern and northern states. A similar list with a western emphasis was produced by Cummings et al. (1980).
Harvest crops as early as possible to reduce the period of vulnerability to deer. Plant susceptible crops as far from wooded cover as possible to reduce the potential for severe damage. Habitat modification is not recommended. Destruction of wooded or brushy cover in hopes of reducing deer use would destroy valuable habitat for other wildlife. Also, since deer forage over a large area it is unlikely that all available deer cover would be on a farmer’s or rancher’s land.
Lure crops have been planted to attract deer away from highways and crop fields where deer traditionally caused damage. Their effectiveness has been variable and concern has been raised that an artificial food source may eventually increase deer densities and resultant problems. Specific recommendations are not yet available regarding plant selection, timing, and proximity of lure crops.
Promising research on the use of chemosterilants and immunocontraception to reduce or eliminate reproduction is underway. Specificity, efficacy, and delivery of contraceptive agents, however, continue to be problems. The use of contraception for herd control will be best suited to urban parks, refuges, and other discrete areas. It is unlikely that contraception can or will be applied in rural/agricultural landscapes.
One of the keys to success with frightening devices and repellents is to take action at the first sign of a problem. It is difficult to break the movements or behavioral patterns of deer once they have been established. Also, use frightening devices and repellents at those times when crops are most susceptible to damage, for example, the silking to tasseling stages for field corn or the blossom stage for soybeans.
Gas exploders set to detonate at regular intervals are the most commonly used frightening devices for deer. They can be purchased for $200 to $500 from several commercial sources (see Supplies and Materials). The devices are sometimes available on loan from wildlife refuges or agencies as they are frequently used to control waterfowl damage. To maximize the effectiveness of exploders, move them every few days and stagger the firing sequence. Otherwise, the deer quickly become accustomed to the regular pattern. The noise level can be increased by raising exploders off the ground. Motion-activated firing mechanisms are now being explored to increase the effectiveness of exploders. Success depends on many factors and can range from good to poor.
A dog on a long run or restricted by an electronic invisible fence system can keep deer out of a limited area, but care and feeding of the dog can be time-consuming. Free-running dogs are not advisable and may be illegal.
Shell crackers, fireworks, and gunfire can provide quick but temporary relief from deer damage. Equip mobile units with pyrotechnics, spotlights, and two-way radios. Patrol farm perimeters and field roads at dusk and throughout the night during times of the year when crops are most susceptible to damage. Such tactics cannot be relied on for an entire growing season.
Repellents are best suited for use in orchards, gardens, and on ornamental plants. High cost, limitations on use, and variable effectiveness make most repellents impractical on row crops, pastures, or other large areas. Success with repellents is measured in the reduction, not total elimination, of damage.
Repellents are described by mode of actions as “contact” or “area.” Contact repellents, which are applied directly to the plants, repel by taste. They are most effective when applied to trees and shrubs during the dormant period. New growth that appears after treatment is unprotected. Contact repellents may reduce the palatability of forage crops and should not be used on plant parts destined for human consumption. Hinder® is an exception in that it can be applied directly on edible crops.
Area repellents are applied near the plants to be protected and repel deer by odor alone. They are usually less effective than contact repellents but can be used in perimeter applications and some situations where contact repellents cannot.
During the winter or dormant season, apply contact repellents on a dry day when temperatures are above freezing. Treat young trees completely. It will be more economical to treat only the terminal growth of older trees. Be sure to treat to a height of 6 feet (1.8 m) above expected maximum snow depth.
The effectiveness of repellents will depend on several factors. Rainfall will dissipate some repellents, so reapplication may be necessary after a rain. Some repellents do not weather well even in the absence of rainfall. Deer’s hunger and the availability of other more palatable food will have a great effect on success. In times of food stress, deer are likely to ignore either taste or odor repellents. When using a commercial preparation, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Don’t overlook new preparations or imaginative ways to use old ones. The following discussion of common repellents is incomplete and provided only as a survey of the wide range of repellent formulations available. The repellents are grouped by active ingredient. Trade names and sample labels for some products are provided in the Supplies and Materials section.
Deer-Away®Big Game Repellent (37% putrescent whole egg solids). This contact (odor/taste) repellent has been used extensively in western conifer plantations and reported in field studies to be 85% to 100% effective. It is registered for use on fruit trees prior to flowering, as well as ornamental and Christmas trees. Apply it to all susceptible new growth and leaders. Applications weather well and are effective for 2 to 6 months. One gallon (3.8 l) of liquid or 1 pound (0.45 kg) of powder costs about $32 and covers 400, 3-inch (7.6-cm) saplings or 75, 4-foot (1.2-m) evergreens.
Hinder® (15% ammonium soaps of higher fatty acids). This area repellent is one of the few registered for use on edible crops. You can apply it directly to vegetable and field crops, forages, ornamentals, and fruit trees. Its effectiveness is usually limited to 2 to 4 weeks but varies because of weather and application technique. Reapplication may be necessary after heavy rains. For small fields and orchards, you can treat the entire area. For larger areas, apply an 8- to 15-foot (2.4- to 4.6-m) band around the perimeter of the field. Apply at temperatures above 32°F (0 deg C). Four gallons (15.2 l) of liquid cost about $80, and when mixed with 100 gallons (380 l) of water will cover 1 acre (0.4 ha). Hinder is compatible for use with most pesticides.
Thiram (7% to 42% tetramethylthiuram disulfide). Thiram, a fungicide that acts as a contact (taste) deer repellent, is sold under several trade names--Nott’s Chew-Not, and Gustafson 42-S®, among others. It is most often used on dormant trees and shrubs. A liquid formulation is sprayed or painted on individual trees. Although Thiram itself does not weather well, adhesives such as Vapor Gard® can be added to increase its resistance to weathering. Thiram-based repellents also protect trees against rabbit and mouse damage. Two gallons (7.6 l) of 42% Thiram cost about $50 and when mixed with 100 gallons (380 l) of water will cover 1 acre (0.4 ha). Cost varies with the concentration of Thiram in the product.
Miller’s Hot Sauce® Animal Repellent (2.5% capsaicin). This contact (taste) repellent is registered for use on ornamentals, Christmas trees, and fruit trees. Apply the repellent with a backpack or trigger sprayer to all susceptible new growth, such as leaders and young leaves. Do not apply to fruit-bearing plants after fruit set. Vegetable crops also can be protected if sprayed prior to the development of edible parts. Weatherability can be improved by adding an anti-transpirant such as Wilt-Pruf® or Vapor Gard®. Hot Sauce and Vapor Gard® cost about $80 and $30 per gallon (3.8 l) respectively. Eight ounces (240 ml) of Hot Sauce and two quarts (1.9 l) of anti-transpirant mixed with 100 gallons (380 l) of water will cover 1 acre (0.4 ha).
Ropel® (benzyldiethyl [(2,6 xylylcarbamoyl) methyl] ammonium saccharide (0.065%), thymol (0.035%). Ropel® is reported to repel deer with its extremely bitter taste. Apply Ropel® once each year to new growth. It is not recommended for use on edible crops. Spray at full strength on nursery and Christmas trees, ornamentals, and flowers. One gallon (3.8 l) costs $50 and covers about 1 acre (0.4 ha) of 8- to 10-foot (2.4- to 3.0-m) trees.
Hair Bags (human hair). Human hair is an odor (area) repellent that costs very little but has not consistently repelled deer. Place two handfuls of hair in fine-mesh bags (onion bags, nylon stockings). Where severe damage occurs, hang hair bags on the outer branches of individual trees with no more than 3 feet (0.9 m) between individual bags. For larger areas, hang several bags, 3 feet (0.9 m) apart, from a fence or cord around the perimeter of the area to be protected. Attach the bags early in spring and replace them monthly through the growing season. You can get hair at local barber shops or salons.
Bar Soap Recent studies and numerous testimonials have shown that ordinary bars of soap applied in the same manner as hair bags can reduce deer damage. Drill a hole in each bar and suspend it with a twist tie or soft cord. Each bar appears to protect a radius of about 1 yard (1 m). Any inexpensive brand of bar soap will work. Ready-to-use bars cost about $0.20 each.
No toxicants are registered for deer control. Poisoning of deer with any product for any reason is illegal and unlikely to be tolerated by the public.
Overall reduction in a state’s deer population might reduce deer damage, but public opinion generally does not favor this approach. Damage may result from a few problem deer or at locations close to a winter deer yard or other exceptional habitat. Thus, a local reduction in deer population may be appropriate.
In suburban parks and preserves, bait-and-shoot programs have been used to reduce deer populations and associated conflicts. Reductions in deer-vehicle colisions have been documented after intensive deer removal. These programs are expensive, and nearly always controversial. Such a management approach should have clearly stated objectives, and include a public-involvement process.
In special cases, such as city parks, refuges, or suburban neighborhoods, it may be necessary or desirable to capture deer alive and move them to other areas. Deer can be captured safely with rocket nets, drop-door box traps, or tranquilizer guns, but these techniques are expensive, time-consuming, and require the expertise of professional wildlife biologists. Live capture and relocation is seldom a practical alternative unless delicate public relations problems mandate live removal as the only choice. During 1982, 15 deer were removed from a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, nature area using chemical immobilization. Total cost was about $100 per deer but other more recent removal operations have been more expensive, up to $400 per deer or more. In addition to high costs, the survival of relocated deer is sometimes low. Live removal is seldom justified.
Effective use of the legal deer season is probably the best way to control deer populations. By permitting hunting, landowners provide public access to a public resource while at the same time reducing deer damage problems. Because of the daily and seasonal movements of deer, only rarely does a single landowner control all the land a deer uses. As a result, neighboring landowners should cooperate. Landowners, the state wildlife agency, and local hunters should reach a consensus about a desirable population level for an area before deer are removed.
Mechanisms for managing deer population levels in a specific area already exist in most states. Either-sex seasons, increased bag limits, antlerless-only permits, special depredation seasons, and a variety of other management techniques have been used successfully to reduce deer numbers below levels achieved by traditional “bucks only” regulations.
Shooting permits issued by some states allow for removal of problem deer where they are causing damage during non-hunting season periods. Use of bait, spotlights, and rifles may increase success, but techniques must be consistent with the specifications of the permits. In areas where shooting normally is prohibited, such as parks and densely populated areas, a skilled shooter under permit is probably preferable to costly attempts at live removal.
Summary of Damage Prevention and Control Methods
Fences provide the most consistent control: 8-foot (1.4-m) woven wire fence, Tensar®, or wooden snow fence around small plots or haystacks.
Several configurations of electric fences are available: vertical five, seven, or nine-wire, slanted seven-wire, single strand, and others.
Individual tree protectors include: woven wire or plastic cylinders.
Cultural Methods and Habitat Modification
Plant trees and shrubs that are resistant or less susceptible to deer damage. Harvest crops as early as possible to reduce vulnerability.
Lure crops may divert deer away from areas that are susceptible to damage. Habitat modification generally is not recommended.
Gas exploders, pyrotechnics, gunfire, or tethered dogs provide temporary relief.
A wide variety of commercial formulations is available: area repellents--applied near plants to be protected, repel by smell; contact repellents--applied directly to plants to be protected, repel by taste; a few, such as Deer-Away®, possess characteristics of both groups.
None are registered.
Deer can be live-trapped or chemically immobilized for removal by professional biologists--useful only in special cases, such as city parks.
Sport hunting can reduce deer populations and should be encouraged.
Some states may issue permits to shoot deer outside normal sport hunting seasons. }}