For some of us, deer in the yard linger long after the holidays as more than a whimsical decoration. Some areas have been experiencing heavy deer browsing, causing severe damage to plants.
According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), trees affected by deer browsing are more vulnerable to frost damage, weakened branches and disease and insect infestation.
Though there are some plant species more popular to deer than others, the threat of deer feeding continues to increase for a variety of species.
Fortunately, there are a few techniques you can use to manage deer browsing and reduce damage to your plants.
Using repellent is a common defense again deer feeding. Repellents can remain effective for 3 to 4 months, but keep in mind that both rain and snow can dissolve the repellent, shortening the length of protection.
If plants were treated with repellent earlier in the winter, reapplication may be necessary, especially if you’re seeing damage.
The NRCS recommends use of bud caps or netting as a way to “hide” buds from the deer. The netting should be checked regularly to make sure branches aren’t beginning to grow through it.
Some scare tactics presented by NRCS may work for a short period of time when deer browsing is not consistent. Deer learn from negative feedback such as bad tasting chemicals, noise or lights. However, once deer get used to these scare tactics, they are no longer effective.
The best deer browsing management comes from assessment of your property, looking at factors such as plant species, frequency of browsing, and characteristics of the property. Request a consultation with your local arborist to discuss a management plan to meet your property’s specific needs.