Managing deer in the landscape
By Ray Ridlen
White tail deer can be a serious problem in many areas of Oklahoma, especially during the lean winter months. There are many options available for managing deer in the landscape. Most effective is the use of exclusion fences. Deer can easily jump over many decorative fences. Something different is needed to keep deer out. Two common options are electric fences and eight-foot deer fences.
Any fence is obtrusive in the landscape. One way to make fences less noticeable is to place them at the wood edge where they blend in with the surrounding shrubs and brush. Many deer fences are constructed in such a way as to become nearly invisible from a distance.
If fences are not an option, try repellents that have an unpleasant taste or odor. Area repellents utilize odors and are generally less effective than contact repellents that deter feeding through bad-tasting substances. Repellents can reduce damage, but will not entirely eliminate damage. A deer will eat just about anything if it is hungry enough.
A wide variety of repellents have been suggested, including human hair, bar soap, cat or dog feces, and moth balls. In scientific research, most of these have shown little impact on deer browsing. However, human hair and bar soap can reduce browsing up to 35 percent. There are commercial repellents that have demonstrated the best efficacy.
Selecting plants that deer avoid is another simple way to manage the animals. Avoiding certain plants is not always the best solution, particularly in the vegetable garden, where many of the most common vegetables are frequently browsed. While no plant is entirely deer-proof, there are some plants deer tend to avoid. Foliage of some plants produce odors that deter feeding, such as Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and Thyme (Thymus sp). Spiky rosettes of Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum tectorum) are avoided by deer, as is the Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia compressa), for obvious reasons.
Unfortunately, some favorite plants are also favored by deer, such as spring flowering tulips. If deer are a problem, planting other bulbs, such as daffodils or hyacinths, which are less preferred by deer, may be an alternative.
Several tactics--planting resistant species, protecting already established, browsing-prone plants with a repellent--may be best incorporated to deter deer in the landscape. Deer fencing may also be an option for small spaces or vegetable gardens. Experimentation with different tactics is the best way to find out what works in the landscape.
For more information review OSO Fact Sheet HLA 6427 Controlling Deer Damage at http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-1089/HLA-6427web.pdf.