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Although browsing deer are enjoyable to watch, they can cause damage by feeding on desirable plants and rubbing antlers against trees. Damage is most commonly noticed in spring on new, succulent growth. Because deer lack upper incisors, browsed twigs and stems show a rough, shredded surface while damage caused by rabbits has a neat, sharp, 45-degree cut. Rodents leave narrow teeth marks when feeding on branches, while deer strip the bark and leave no teeth marks.
It is difficult to move deer out of areas where they are not wanted and not all strategies are practical for every homeowner. Frightening deer with gas exploders, strobe lights, pyrotechnics or tethered dogs typically provides only temporary relief. More practical management strategies include selecting plants unattractive to deer, treating plants with deer repellents, netting and tubing, and fencing.
The placement of plants in part determines the extent of damage. Plant more susceptible species near the home, in a fenced area or inside a protective ring of less-preferred species. A hungry deer will find almost any plant palatable, so no plant is “deer proof,” but some plants are definitely preferred over others. For a list of plants and their susceptibility to deer browsing, refer to CSU Extension Fact Sheet No. 6.520, Preventing Deer Damage, written by C.E. Swift and M.K. Gross.
The two types of deer repellents are contact repellents and area repellents. Contact repellents are applied directly to plants, causing them to taste bad. Area repellents are placed in a problem area and repel by their foul odor. Repellents are generally more effective on less-preferred plants. Apply repellents on a dry day with temperatures above freezing. Treat young trees completely and older trees may be treated only on their new growth. Treat to a height of 6 feet above the maximum expected snow depth. Since deer browse from the top down, hang or apply repellents at the bud or new-growth level of the plants you wish to protect.
A spray of 20 percent whole eggs and 80 percent water is one of the most effective repellents. To prevent the sprayer from clogging, remove the white membrane attached to the yolk before mixing the eggs. The egg mixture is weather resistant, but must be reapplied in about 30 days. The fact sheet highlighted above also contains a list of commercially available repellents and their ratings against deer and elk browsing in Colorado.
Home remedy repellents are questionable at best, including small, fine-mesh bags of human hair and bar soap hung from branches of trees. Replace both soap and hair bags monthly, as deer have been reported to eat the soap bars. Materials that work in one area or for one person may not work at all in an area more highly frequented by deer.
Tubes of Vexar netting around individual seedlings are an effective method to reduce deer damage to small trees. The material degrades in sunlight and breaks down in three to five years. These tubes can protect just the growing terminals or can completely enclose small trees. Attach tubes to a support stake to keep them upright. Another option is flexible, sunlight-degradable netting that expands to slip over seedlings. Both products are available from Colorado State University Forest Service offices.
Finally, adequate fencing to exclude deer is the only sure way to control deer damage. The conventional deer-proof fence is 8 feet high and made of woven wire. Electric fences also can be used and should be of triple-galvanized, high-tensile, 13.5 gauge wire carrying a current of 35 milliamps and 3,000 to 4,500 volts. Several configurations of electric fences are used: vertical five, seven or nine-wire; slanted seven-wire; single strand and others. When using a single strand electric fence, it helps the deer to “notice” that the wire is there if it is marked with cloth strips, reflective tape or something similar. Otherwise, the deer may not see it in time and go right through it.
Additional options include invisible mesh barriers, slanting deer fences and single-wire electric fences baited with peanut butter. The invisible mesh barriers are polypropylene fences of various mesh sizes, typically 8 feet high with a high tensile strength that blend in with the surroundings. The baited fences attract deer to the fence instead of what’s inside the fence. They administer a safe correction that trains the deer to stay away. They are effective for small gardens, nurseries and orchards (up to three to four acres) that are subject to moderate deer pressure. Deer are attracted to the peanut butter and encouraged to make nose-to-fence contact. Deer, like many wild animals, seem to respect and respond better to electric fencing after they become familiar with the fenced area.
This information on preventing deer damage has been taken from CSU Extension Fact Sheet No. 6.520 by C.E. Swift and M.K. Gross and can be downloaded from the CSU web site at www.ext.colostate.edu.
CPR and first aid
CPR and first aid certification classes are offered monthly by the CSU Extension office on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6-10 p.m. Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the Extension office at 264-5931.
We will also schedule classes on additional dates with five or more registrations. Cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid and $55 for individual CPR or first aid. The type of first aid information provided will vary by the needs of the audience. Group rates are available. Call the Extension office for information at 264-5931.