I receive many messages from women concerned about their flowers around whitetail deer. Plain and simple, deer eat certain kinds of flowers. You can use all kinds of spray and other methods of discouraging deer with some successes, but they always come back.
Whitetail deer are creatures of habit. They return to areas where easy food is available – including flowers you planted. We have suffered through this for several years.
Deer are fringe animals, meaning they survive in areas close to neighborhoods. Unpressured deer may be seen in daylight while deer living in rural areas where hunting is common adapt nocturnal habits for survival. We constantly see deer around well-populated areas in our neighborhood.
Deer love easy. Feeding in the woods on sweet grass and other delicious plants makes them feel safe. Unlimited food and cover are how deer survive. Problem is, when unusually cool or dry conditions slow the growth of native plants, deer hunt for food and this may include visiting your yard.
Whitetail deer have four stomachs. They gorge on food stored in one stomach. Later they will bring up balls of the vegetation and chew it for proper digestion. There is a great deal more to their digestive tract, but this is why deer can eat large quantities of a wide variety of plants, including flowers you worked all summer to save in this drought.
Yet even tame deer have a built-in fear of humans. So, deer feed in yards at night. We have lost a number of plants over the years from these unwanted visitors, especially moss roses.
Deer poop is a tell-tale sign. A small pile of black, oval pellets slightly larger than a rabbit’s is common. Deer digesting their food will poop more than 10 to 13 times in a 24-hour period, so some will likely be in your yard.
Bucks leave nasty calling cards too. Last fall a buck rubbed the sugar maple tree I planted in the center of my front yard. This means shredding the tree bark with his antlers, either practicing fighting techniques or rubbing the velvet off. Either way, we did everything possible to save the beautiful tree, but it recently died.
So how do you discourage deer from eating plants? Many swear by commercial deer repellents. Hot pepper spray is another good method. Deer may take one bite and likely leave to find water. Chances are they won’t make the same mistake twice. Soap flakes, too, are said to discourage deer and human hair spread on plants works well because even so-called “tame” deer survive by avoiding human odors. Problem is, I don’t have enough hair to spare.
Deer will soon be roaming for forage, so take the appropriate steps to protect your investment.
Deer and cars: Drivers face serious problems with deer, especially in the fall and winter. Deer can mean danger to drivers. Fall is the beginning of the rut. Bucks lose their caution and start chasing does to breed. This is the period, according to national statistics when more deer/automobile accidents occur between 6 a.m. through 10 p.m.
A close friend was driving home last year and a rutting buck ran into the front of his new car. Yes, you read that right, the deer ran into the front of his car while he was driving 70 mph down a dark highway. The deer was likely chasing a doe and ran straight into the headlight, tearing up the new car and sending my friend to a few days in the hospital.
Bucks during the rut are like some young guys Friday night on ladies’ night in a bar. They are chasing girls and fighting, just like bucks – and me a bunch of decades ago. Bucks lose their common sense at times and make mistakes they normally avoid throughout the year. Many a big buck has ran in front of a tractor trailer while chasing a doe.
So here are a few tips on how to avoid meeting a deer head on:
Driving/deer tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
1. When at all possible, avoid driving between dusk and dawn.
2. Try to avoid rural roads and poorly lit areas.
3. Be particularly vigilant when driving through areas with high foliage or low hanging branches on the roadside. If there are two people in the car, ask your passenger for help watching the sides of the road.
4. Reduce your speed, and don't overdrive your lights. The most common remark people make after they've been in a car deer collision is that the animal "came out of nowhere."
5. If you see one deer on the side of the road and you're fortunate enough not to hit it, be sure to slow down, because where there is one deer, there will often be others.
6. Always wear your seatbelt.
7. Use high beam headlights as much as possible to light the sides of the roadway.
8. Do not ride motorcycles in areas with high deer populations. Riding a motorcycle leaves you much more vulnerable to serious injury in an accident than does driving a car.
Finally, I would rather hit a critter head on instead of wrecking my car and killing everyone. I know that may seem silly, but it actually happens. I know one family that rolled their vehicle while trying to miss a squirrel. The entire family was treated in the hospital for broken bones and lacerations. Their new car was totaled.
I am especially soft-hearted toward dogs, but will never wreck my vehicle in missing one, even though I will feel miserable the rest of that day. But common sense comes into play, so live to drive another day. Do what you can to miss an animal, but be cautious in your driving maneuver.
Deer in our world are a fact of life. Prevention is a great way to co-exist with the herd.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.