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Coping with deer

Deer damage home landscapes by feeding on garden and landscape plants, rubbing their antlers against trees, or scraping the soil around trees.

Deer damage home landscapes by feeding on garden and landscape plants, rubbing their antlers against trees, or scraping the soil around trees. In urban environments where native plants and alfalfa, corn and grains are not available, the home landscape may become the major source of food. In areas where deer are a problem, there are several options. You can reduce damage to the home landscape by growing plants which deer find unattractive, fencing the deer out, or using repellents.

It should be stressed that hungry deer will eat almost anything. Young, tender plants are generally more likely to be damaged than older, tougher plants. Don't mix plants deer prefer among those they dislike. They'll trample the plants they dislike to get to those they prefer. Some information on which plants deer tend to browse has been gathered through the tree nursery industry where deer browsing is of economic importance. Limited information is available on which vegetables or flowers deer like or dislike.

Male deer, or bucks, damage young trees by rubbing and scraping against them during the mating season, in an attempt to show their dominance. Rubbing against trees removes the velvet that covers their antlers during the summer. Once this is accomplished, the buck will polish his antlers and continue to mark his territory by thrashing his antlers up and down against tree trunks and branches. This shreds and tears bark and may break branches or the trunk itself. Small, smooth barked trees such as apples are more attractive to bucks as rubbing sites than larger trees and trees with rough bark. Individual trees can be protected against rubbing injury by pounding tall vertical barrier stakes into the soil around each, a foot or so from the trunk. Bucks will also paw the soil around trees and urinate on the cleared area beneath an overhanging branch. The buck will chew and rub his scent on the branch, often breaking it. Pruning trees to remove any branches lower than six feet from the ground may help.

For more information, visit the University of Minnesota website

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