Deer Prevention

Deer running

As deer become acclimated to suburban areas, deer prevention
becomes a part of building landscapes. They are eating our plants and will also strip bark from trees in winter. Deer also attract deer ticks which are also carriers of Lyme Disease.

If you find deer in the garden a few pieces of information that are important to know include:

  • Deer usually feed dusk to dawn.

  • When gardens are watered, especially if sprinkled deer will come around at dusk if there are plants still wet.

  • Deer will take advantage of soft, succulent greens. Deer may not come around as often to your garden in summer since there are more plentiful amounts of food during this time. However....

  • If your landscape is a buffet, deer will always come around. It's easier food access than in the wild.

  • It's highly likely they'll come around during dry spells of summer where they know plants are watered.

  • Deer prefer to feed close by homes and trees where they are under cover for safety. If very hungry they will go into open areas.

  • They will get bird seed from feeders.

  • Winter is the worst time of year for deer, especially in colder parts of North America.

  • Many die of starvation rather than the cold.

  • Deer eat less food in winter because their metabolism slows in winter. Deer lose heat easily so they huddle together for warmth.

  • Bucks will rub on young trees and shrubs for two reasons.. 

    - to imprint their scent marking their territory.  June through November is the time for rutting deer.  By November mating season is in full swing and also the peak time of year for vehicle collisions with deer.

    Second - to remove their antler velvet - which is called 'Buck Rubs'.  This occurs late summer, early fall.

Different options for deer prevention in the garden and around the house:

Keeping Deer Out

Homemade Deer Repellent

Those trees deer really like include: American arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis), Buckeye (Aesculus californica), European Mountain (Sorbus aucuparial), Fraser Fir (abies fraseri), Rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.) 

Your landscape may especially attract deer if there are
Acorns, Beechnuts, dropped orchard fruits, Crab apples,
Poison Ivy berries around.

So what about deer repellent plants? No plant is completely deer proof but there are some characteristics of deer resistant plants includes:

Deer don't like fuzzy leaves

  • Fuzzy leaves on plants -
    It's not cerain if fuzz on leaf irritates tongue or if it's unpalateable. Examples are Lamb's Ears (Stachys byzantina), Licorice Plant (Helichrysum petiolare), Lady's mantle (Alchemella mollis).

  • Compounds that are poisonous to mammals -
    Whether by instinct or taught by mothers to avoid poisonous plants. Under desparate conditions, however, they will eat these plants. Planting poisonous types of flowers at a garden entry helps in confusing deer. Examples include Spurges (Euphorbia), Lenten Roses (Helleborus orientalis), Castor Oil Plant ( Ricinus communis), Monkshhods (Aconitym).

  • Too fragrant/Aromatic leaves or flowers -
    Because deer have excellent sense of smell, plants that are too fregrant confuse deer.

    Herbs include Sages (Salvia), Rosemary ( Rosmarinus officinalis), Thymes (Thymus), Ornamental Onions (Allium).

    Flowers include Lilacs (syringa), Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima), Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria).

    Overall minty, lemony or bitter tasting plants deter deer.

  • Tough, leathery, fibrous textured plants -
    These can include ferns and ornamental grasses. Examples include Peony (Paeonia officinalis), Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica).

  • Spiny, Bristly plants -
    Examples include:

    Spiky Yucca (Yucca filamentosa), Bristly Poppies/prickly poppies, Rugosa Roses (Rosa rugosa & hybrids), Glove Thistle (Echinops ritro), Barberry (Berberis canadensis) and the unfavorable Japanese Barberry (Barberis thunbergii).

    Note that Japanese Barberry is invasive.  It chokes out native vegetation and it's not recommended for deer prevention on your property.  It has spread through woodlands across America with greatest population in Northeast U.S. Native animal species are driven out out find forage and habitat. It is now considered an invasive weed species.


Take your dog for a walk around peramiters of property. Encourage them to urinate. Urine helps with deer prevention. Dogs barking also helps.

Dogs barking help keep deer away

Remember, many areas around the country that have a great deal of woodlands around are bringing in coyotes, or prairie wolf, which are natural predators to deer. If using a dog to scare deer, please don't forget to bring the dog inside at night. Coyotes will also attack them. To hear this is very unsettling.

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