Deer Control

Professional Deer Exclusion and Prevention Services

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General Deer Facts


Deer are probably the most widely distributed and best-recognized large mammals in North America.The positive economic value of deer through license fees, meat, and hunter expenditures for equipment, food, and transportation can be measured in hundreds of millions of dollars. With the additional aesthetic value of deer to landowners and vacationers, importance of deer as a wildlife resource cannot be disputed.

Despite their economic and aesthetic values, deer also have a variety of negative economic impacts—they damage crops and personal property, and harbor diseases common to humans and livestock. Unlike moles, rats, and other species implicated in damage, deer cannot be casually eliminated when in conflict with humans. But neither can landowners be expected to bear the entire burden of support for this valuable public resource. These factors often make deer damage control a difficult social and political problem as well as a biological and logistical one. Control methods are built around effective deer herd management. Thus the various state wildlife agencies are often indirectly or directly involved through subsidy of control techniques, direct damage compensation payments, or technical advice. Scare devices, repellents, and shooting all have a place in deer damage control. Effective control for fields, orchards, and other large areas, however, usually depends on excluding the deer with one of several types of fences, discussed later in this chapter. Toxicants, fumigants, and in most cases, trapping, are not used in deer control.

Food Habits

Browse (leaves, stems, and buds of woody plants) is generally available all year and is a staple food for deer. An extensive review of food habits can be found in Hesselton and Hesselton (1982) and in Mackie et al. (1982). Plant species vary considerably in quality and regional availability, so a list is not presented here. Forbs are eaten in spring and summer when available. Fruits and nuts (especially acorns) are seasonally very important. Grasses are relatively unimportant. Agricultural crops--corn, soybeans, small grains, alfalfa, vegetables, and fruit trees--are readily eaten when available. Local food habits studies are available in most states--consult your local wildlife agency. Nutrient requirements and the amount of food consumed vary with age of the animal, season, and the reproductive cycle. Daily dry matter consumption averages 2% to 4% of live body weight. For adult bucks, daily consumption is greatest in spring and averages 4.4 to 6.4 pounds (2.0 to 2.9 kg) of air-dry food per day. Consumption is about half that during winter. For does, greatest daily food consumption occurs in early fall, just prior to the breeding season.

Damage and Damage Identification

Deer damage a wide variety of row crops, forage crops, vegetables, fruit trees, nursery stock, and ornamentals, as well as stacked hay. In addition to the immediate loss of the crop being damaged, there is often residual damage in the form of future yield reduction of fruit trees or forage crops such as alfalfa. Ornamental trees or nursery stock may be permanently disfigured by deer browsing. Under high densities deer may severely impact native plant communities and impair regeneration of some forest tree species. Besides vegetative damage, deer/ vehicle collisions pose a serious risk to motorists, and deer have been implicated in the distribution and transmission of Lyme disease. Damage identification is not difficult. Because both mule deer and whitetailed deer lack upper incisors, deer often leave a jagged or torn surface on twigs or stems that they browse. Rabbits and rodents, however, leave a clean-cut surface. In addition, deer tracks are very distinctive (Fig. 5). The height of damage from the ground (up to 6 feet [1.8 m]) often rules out any mammal other than deer. Deer often are observed “in the act” of causing damage.

Legal Status

Deer are protected year-round in all states and provinces, with the exception of legal harvest during appropriate big-game hunting seasons. In cases of severe or persistent damage, some states may issue farmers special permits to shoot deer at times other than the legal hunting seasons. Regulations vary on the necessary permits and on 2 1/2" D-29 disposal of dead animals. The popularity of deer as game animals and the need to curb poaching have led to the development of severe penalties for illegal possession. No lethal deer control can be initiated before consulting your local state wildlife agency. By law, some states provide technical assistance or direct compensation for deer damage. This is discussed under the section on the economics of damage and control.

Damage Prevention and Control Methods


Where deer are abundant or crops are particularly valuable, fencing may be the only way to effectively minimize deer damage. Several fencing designs are available to meet specific needs.

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Fencing installed to protect vegetation from consumption

Temporary electric fences are simple inexpensive fences useful in protecting garden and field crops during snowfree periods. Deer are attracted to these fences by their appearance or smell, and are lured into contacting the fence with their noses. The resulting shock is a very strong stimulus and deer learn to avoid the fenced area. Permanent high-tensile electric fences provide year-round protection from deer and are best suited to high-value specialty or orchard crops. The electric shocking power and unique fence designs present both psychological and physical barriers to deer. Permanent woven-wire fences provide the ultimate deer barrier. They require little maintenance but are very expensive to build. Fencing in general is expensive.

United Wildlife's Deer Control experts can you help you solve your deer problems. For pricing information, coaching, and technician services, give us a call now!

Call us now at 1-888-488-1415 or contact us online.

*The above information was taken from a University of Nebraska Web site with
express permission of Stephen Vatassel, wildlife damage project coordinator.

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