For several seasons I’ve heard other gardeners in my area bemoan the damage deer can do to trees, shrubs and perennials. A drive through Thunder Bay neighbourhoods exposes the worst evidence – white cedar nibbled into sad misshapen topiaries.
Here is our early morning evidence.
But the main problem is the sheer number of deer in many areas of the province. I know it’s not news that the deer population is on the rise, but when a problem virtually knocks on your door, you pay more attention.
The Ministry of Natural Resources gives an historical perspective. The deer harvest in Ontario rose from 20,000 a year in the early 1900s to about 40,000 in 1955. Cold winters, habitat loss and over-hunting over the next 25 years reduced the white-tail population below historic norms. Only 10,000 deer were harvested in 1980, but that has since risen to nearly 100,000 (Sun Media, 2008).
The report also says, “The social and economic costs of high deer densities have risen in lockstep with increases in the human population. Deer collisions today are a daily hazard for Ontario motorists.” City police report that in Thunder Bay there are 1.6 accidents involving white-tailed deer each day.
My community has developed a Deer Management Strategy which includes a controlled archery hunt. The feeding of deer has been banned. Over time, these measures may help reduce the population somewhat.
In the meantime, we’re going with electric fence. It works in the summer. My “installer” assures me it can work in the winter too. And if there’s a "deer" in my yard, it had better be a tractor!
Oh, and I promise to talk about deer-resistant plants in another post. Do you think they really exist?
What has been your gardening experience with deer?