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Trees affected by deer browsing are vulnerable to frost damage, weakened branches and insects and disease, but there are techniques you can use to manage browsing and reduce damage to your plants.

Managing Deer Browsing on Your Property

January 19, 2016

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, disease, and insect infestation.

Though there are some plant species more preferable 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.

Deer Repellent

Repellents are commonly used to defend against deer feeding. Repellents can remain effective for 3 to 4 months under ideal situations, but keep in mind weather conditions 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 the damage.

Protective Devices

The NRCS recommends the 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.

Intimidation Tactics

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.

Non-Deer Resistant Plants & Deer Browsing

The best deer browsing management comes from the assessment of your property, looking at factors such as plant species and frequency of deer browsing based on where you live.

For example, in the Midwest and Northeast regions:

  • Deer browse on herbaceous plant material from April through October
  • Deer browse on woody plant material from November through March

But when it’s below zero temperatures, they will eat anything!

Here's a shortlist of non-deer-resistant plants:


  • Apples
  • Cheery


  • Arborvitae
  • Azaleas & Rhododendrons
  • Euonymus
  • Indian Hawthorne
  • Japanese Yew
  • Pittisporum
  • Roses


  • Daylilies
  • Hosta

Ground Covers

  • English Ivy


  • Pansies
  • Violas

Request a consultation with your local arborist to discuss management for your property

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