New Neighbors: Deer in our Backyards

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There are plenty of deer in the Hill Country. While we think of them as forest creatures, increasingly they are showing up in backyards all over Texas.

Most of the time, deer add a little bit of nature to our lives. But occasionally, deer can become pests in our backyards. They have been known to chew gardens to the ground and can even become aggressive in some situations. Listed below are some easy ways to avoid any problems with our beautiful four-legged neighbors.

  1. Plant deer-resistant vegetation
Meet the New Neighbors: How to Deal with Deer in Our Backyards

Photo: @carlmyerflor via Twenty20

If you have a large population of deer in your neighborhood, trying to get them to stop eating certain plants may be a losing battle. Deer love to munch on plants like English Ivy, daylilies, and hostas. If you have a choice, avoid using those plants in your garden.

Instead, try planting flowers such as lavender, peonies, or daffodils. Plants like these either have strong smells that deer don’t like or they are poisonous and unlikely to be eaten by wildlife. While deer have been known to chew on nearly any plant if they’re hungry enough, these plants are much less likely to be damaged by hungry ruminants.

Remembering that deer are sensitive to smells, another way to ward them off is by spraying nasty-smelling mixtures onto your plants. There are recipes for these mixtures online, and many of them use garlic and/or rotten eggs. Unfortunately, these mixtures may ward you off too! Whew!

Sprinkling chili powder and/or a pepper mixture on your tastier plants have also proven effective in convincing deer to dine elsewhere, and may not be as smelly.

  1. Don’t hand-feed deer.
Meet the New Neighbors: How to Deal with Deer in Our Backyards

Photo: @pamelasphotopoetry via Twenty20

Wildlife experts will advise you that hand-feeding any wildlife is a bad practice. Deer harbor ticks and other parasites, which can easily jump on someone if they get too close. A tick bite is no laughing matter—ticks can carry serious diseases.

Even worse, hand-fed deer learn to associate humans with food and may end up pestering your human neighbors. This situation is bad for both humans and the deer. The deer may get frustrated when a human doesn’t feed it, while the human may feel intimidated when approached by an unfamiliar 150-pound animal.

Although deer are cute, you should always remember that they are wild animals. Don’t take unnecessary risks around them.

  1. Deer and dogs don’t mix.
Meet the New Neighbors: How to Deal with Deer in Our Backyards

Photo: @KimB via Twenty20

You shouldn’t let your dog play with a deer.

Even if your dog is friendly, the deer may not know that. A deer attack can be serious, even fatal to a small or medium-sized dog.

When deer feel threatened, they lash out with their hooves, which are very sharp. Deer also stomp. There have been instances in which deer have severely injured dogs in front of their owners, before they had time to react.

If a deer approaches your dog, it may be a doe protecting her fawn. Try and separate your dog from the deer and leave the area as quickly and safely as possible.

While having deer as neighbors might take some getting-used-to, there’s nothing quite like watching two fawns play together, or seeing a buck stare at you from across the street. We, as people, may need to make a few changes to our lives to help these animals exist in our world. But, for many of us, the rewards of watching these beautiful animals in our backyards are worth any downsides.