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.
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.
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.
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:
- Azaleas & Rhododendrons
- Indian Hawthorne
- Japanese Yew
- English Ivy