Deer Infestation in a Garden

Deer (via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0)

Deer infestations in a garden can be a major problem for gardeners as deer can cause significant damage to plants and foliage. They can eat flowers, vegetables, and fruit, as well as strip bark from trees and shrubs. Additionally, deer can carry diseases and parasites that can infect other wildlife, pets, and even humans.


  • Damage to plants and foliage: Deer will often eat the leaves, stems, and buds of plants, which can result in missing leaves, broken branches, and stunted growth. They may also strip bark from trees and shrubs, which can lead to dieback or death of the plant.
  • Chewed or nibbled plants: Deer will often nibble on the foliage of plants, leaving a ragged or jagged edge on the leaves. This is particularly common at ground level, as deer prefer to browse on low-growing vegetation.
  • Tracks or droppings: Deer tracks and droppings can be a telltale sign of an infestation. Deer tracks will be large and round, with three toes and a heel pad. Droppings will be dark and cylindrical, and may contain bits of plant material.
  • Damage to fruit and vegetable crops: Deer can also cause significant damage to fruit and vegetable crops, eating the fruit or vegetables before they are ripe. This can result in a loss of yield and can also make the remaining fruit or vegetables unmarketable.
  • Damage to ornamental plants: When deer are hungry they may eat the ornamental plants that are not part of their natural diet, this can cause damage to the plants and make it difficult for them to survive.
  • Damage to young trees and shrubs: Young trees and shrubs are particularly vulnerable to deer browsing and can suffer serious damage or even death if heavily browsed.

It’s important to note that these symptoms may also be caused by other pests or diseases, so it’s important to correctly identify the cause of the damage before taking action to treat it.

What is a Deer

There are many species of deer, but some common characteristics include:

  • Long legs and neck: Deer have long legs and a long neck in proportion to their body, which allows them to move quickly and easily through their environment.
  • Brown or gray fur: Deer typically have brown or gray fur, which provides camouflage in the forest and grassland habitats where they live. Some species may have white fur on their underbelly, which can help them blend in with snow-covered environments.
  • White tail with a black tip: Deer have a distinctive white tail with a black tip, which they will raise and wag as a warning signal when they sense danger.
  • Antlers on males (not present on females): Most male deer have antlers, which they use to fight other males during the breeding season. Female deer do not have antlers.
  • Large ears: Deer have large ears that they can move independently, which helps them to hear predators and other potential threats.
  • Brown or black eyes: Deer have brown or black eyes that are large and expressive, which helps them to see predators and other potential threats.
  • Large nose: Deer have a large nose that is used for detecting scents and odors in their environment.
  • Hooves: Deer have cloven hooves, two toes with a hard covering on the bottom, which allow them to walk and run on soft or uneven terrain.

The size, shape, and color of the deer can vary depending on the species, but these are some of the common characteristics that are typically associated with deer.

Treating a Deer Infestation

There are several methods for treating a deer infestation in a garden, including:

Physical barriers

One of the most effective ways to keep deer out of a garden is to use physical barriers such as fencing. A tall fence (8-12 feet) made of sturdy materials such as wood or metal can be an effective deterrent. It’s important to ensure the fence is tall enough to prevent deer from jumping over it and that the bottom of the fence is buried at least 6 inches below ground level to prevent deer from digging under it.


There are several types of repellents that can be used to deter deer from entering a garden. These include sprays, granules, and electronic devices that emit high-pitched sounds. The most effective repellents are those that contain the scent or taste of predators such as coyotes or bobcats, as deer are naturally afraid of these animals. It’s important to reapply the repellent regularly, as its effectiveness will fade over time.


Netting can be used to protect individual plants or small areas of the garden from deer browsing. The netting should be made of a durable material such as nylon or polypropylene and should be placed over the plants and anchored securely to the ground.

Planting deer-resistant plants

Some plants are less palatable to deer than others, so planting a garden with deer-resistant plants can be an effective way to deter deer from entering the area. Some examples of deer-resistant plants include daffodils, alliums, and yarrow.


In some cases, hunting may be used as a method of controlling deer populations. This is typically done by licensed hunters who are authorized to hunt on specific properties. It’s important to follow all local laws and regulations when using hunting as a method of control.

Professional help

If the infestation is severe and the above methods are not working, it’s best to call a professional wildlife control company. They can provide a more effective solution and will handle the situation in a humane and safe way.

It’s important to note that no single method will be 100% effective in keeping deer out of a garden, so it’s usually best to use a combination of methods to provide the best protection. It’s also important to keep an eye on the area and adapt the methods as needed, as the effectiveness of each method may change over time.