P&PDL Picture of the Week for
March 23, 2009

Deer Damage

Gail Ruhl, Plant Disease Diagnostician, Purdue University
Judy Loven, Indiana Wildlife Services State Director
Jeff Burbrink, Purdue Extension Educator, Elkhart County

When damage from deer occurs there are usually two common questions.  First, will the plants recover? And second, what can I do to keep the deer away?

Unfortunately, most evergreens (pines, arborvitae, spruce, and fir) will not grow new needles to fill the empty void once the green foliage has been removed from the stems. Arborvitae which have been stripped of foliage by browsing deer will remain bare. The exception appears to be the yew, which has buds in the stems of the plant and can eventually re-grow new foliage.

Standard fencing is one option to physically keep the deer away from trees and shrubs. Another option for protecting larger plantings is an electric fence (above ground electric fence is not legal inside the city limits of most communities). One type, called polytape, when used in combination with peanut butter smeared foil strips, has been fairly effective. Full details on cost, construction and effectiveness are available from your county Extension office, in Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources bulletin FNR-136 or online at http://www.ces.purdue.edu/extmedia/FNR/FNR-136.pdf
Other physical barriers include 1” grid plastic bird netting to protect foliage and plastic tree guards to protect the trunk bark.

There are several repellents marketed that deter deer with their scent. You can purchase these at area garden centers or farm stores. Even though these repellents often need to be re-applied frequently because they break down quickly when exposed to the elements, they are much more effective than home remedies such as hanging small bars of scented soap or bags of human hair in each tree, creating a scent of humans nearby (this is an “old wives tale that does not work- the deer are coming to your yard, human scent does not repel them). Apply repellents sparingly and leave some less desirable plants untreated in order to give the deer a choice between treated and untreated plants.  However, if the deer have nothing else to eat, and they have developed a habit of eating your bushes, they will likely overcome their fear of the new scent.  If deer damage to your landscaping is chronic, it may be desirable to replace severely damaged plants with deer resistant varieties (http://njaes.rutgers.edu/deerresistance/default.asp)



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Deer damage on arborvitae

Deer damage on arborvitae

Deer damage on arborvitae

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service