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Critterguy / FAQ / Deer
FAQ: Deer

Deer are invading my yard and consuming my garden. How can I keep them from eating everything?

Deer may lovely to look at, but can cause considerable damage to crops, gardens, and landscape shrubbery.

white-tail deer (doe)
white-tail deer (doe)
Remedies include:
•   Exclusion: (Fences must be at least 8 feet high, or electrified Check local ordinances for fence rules).

•   Repellents: (Can reduce, but not eliminate damage. Many kinds available, for spraying on crops, shrubs, etc. Odor-based products may work better than taste-aversion products; many have to be re-applied after rain. A large dog in the yard often works well!)

•   Hunting: (Effective where allowed. Check with MDNR and local government for regulations.)

More Detailed Information

Deer damage may be caused by a number of different deer behaviors and habits.

white-tail deer (fawn)
white-tail deer (fawn)
The best advice regarding damage to ornamental shrubs is to purposely plant shrub species that deer don't favor, and avoid those they prefer. A "preferred deer food" list to avoid would include white cedar, arborvitae, azaleas, balsam fir, any of the yews, roses, most fruit trees, and redbud. In the spring and summer, they love flowers such as tulips, daylilies, hosta, and most spring wildflowers such as trillium. (In many areas where deer are overabundant, the woodlands can be nearly devoid of spring wildflowers.)

On the other hand, deer tend not to eat (unless really hungry) the following, among others: boxwood, barberry, pine, spruce, juniper, viburnum, wisteria, red elderberry, smoke tree, dogwood, butterflybush, forsythia, and (unfortunately, since it is an invasive exotic) Russian olive. Among the more deer-resistant flowers are daffodils, mints, peonies, geranium, snapdragons, and marigolds. But I have seen where deer had simply bitten off the marigold flowers and dropped them, so I guess to a deer, nothing is sacred!

Commercial deer repellents can be useful, but if it rains alot, you may need to re-apply them more often than the label suggests!

white-tail deer (doe)
white-tail deer (doe)

Portions of this section were adapted and edited from earlier material written by Glenn R. Dudderar, former MSU Extension Wildlife Specialist.

James Harding
MSU Museum
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
(517) 353-7978

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