Wildlife Corner


Odocoileus virginianus

White-tailed deer




Typically deer live in areas of forest, swamp land and fields. More and more, though, they are also found in suburban areas. Where there is food, there is a possibility that they will come and eat.


Garden Pest?

Deer can be a surprise to discover in the backyard or garden. Despite the beauty and majesty of a healthy, strong buck, or the wonder of a doe with her fawn, many gardeners have come to realize that deer can be a huge problem for the garden.


Tip #1

Try to stop deer from reaching you garden in the first place.

Fencing and netting around and over deer-sensitive plants will prevent them from getting a taste of your garden.

Tip #2

Grow some plants that deer would prefer to avoid.

The spiky vines of cucumbers and squash are generally avoided by deer, as are the spiny skins of cucumbers and the tough skins of the squash themselves.

More plants that deer avoid are listed below!

Tip #3

Introduce smells that the deer will avoid. It may take some help and creativity to find some of these, or at least a trip to the store.

Ideas recommended by some gardeners:

  • Rotten egg odor
  • Human hair
  • Bars of soap
  • Predator urine 
  • Other scent-based commercial deer-repellent products

Deer (reportedly) Avoid These:

  • Yuccas
  • Angelica
  • Begonias
  • Calendula
  • California Poppy
  • Heliotropes
  • Flax
  • Ferns
  • Borage
  • Burning bush
  • Artichokes
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Peppers
  • Eggplants
  • Onions
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Horseradish
  • Mint
  • Absinth and Sweet Wormwood

(Source: “Solving Deer Problems” by Peter Loewer, Skyhorse Publishing 2015)

What have I tried?

I’ve put some barriers and netting up around some plants. Some have been left alone afterward (like the grape vines, surrounding by netting that is pinned into the ground and closed on the top, also). Others have been pulled off of the plant with ease, and the deer have munched down to the ground despite my efforts.

I’ve tried shooing the deer away from the yard whenever I see them, but they really seem to find me a simple annoyance, and probably plan to come back a little later.

I’ve tried leaving the lights on at night, but they really don’t care. They’re happy to see the food that they’re eating.

This year I will be adding some more tools to the list, and we will see how it works out!

Sometimes, the deer just don’t care how much you want to keep them away from your plant. They find a way.


  • Before and after (just a couple days apart). There go the sunflower seeds…

What can we do?

Spend time in the garden or yard to observe what the deer are coming for, and then specifically work to protect those plants.

Starting simple with some bars of soap laid near sensitive plants may do the job for you. Also, investing in some netting or other plant covers around special plants may provide sufficient protection.

Planting more sensitive plants in containers and keeping them closer to the house or in a more protected environment may help protect them.

If you have a dog, you might consider walking it in the backyard areas near the garden. Be cautious, though, as deer can carry deer ticks, which can be transferred to your dog (or you!). Always look out for ticks if your dog has been running through areas that deer frequent.

Never try to scare off a herd of deer on your own, or even a buck or mother doe. They can become aggressive, and can charge at you or chase you.


Deer Love These: Things they have eaten from my yard…

  • Sunflower flowers
  • Spice bush
  • Grape vines
  • Rose bush leaves and flowers
  • Daylilies
  • Pussy willow
  • Apple trees (young branches and leaves)
  • Peach trees, and the peaches
  • Raspberry vine branches
  • Hostas? I’ve been told this, but they seem to leave mine alone…

Getting around the fence…

Deer won’t just jump over fences, they may also crawl under them. If you are using a fence to secure your garden, make sure it is secured along the bottom, too.

I have a fence. Isn’t this enough?

If you are looking for a fail-safe fencing option, it has to be 10 feet tall. A second option would be shorter fences, but two of them, running parallel a couple feet apart. Either way, this is not practical for just about anyone.

Electric fences could also help, but if there is ever a failure in the fence (power outage, or a segment that breaks or disconnects) and the deer realize they can breach it, the fence will lose its effectiveness. Deer fur is fairly insulating, and they will tolerate the mild discomfort when they know they get to tasty food on the other side.

Some companies do create net-type fences that are difficult to see but fairly strong and tall. These are an option, and one I have not yet tried. But if you are desperate, and if your family is depending on the garden for food, these are worth doing some more research.