White-tailed deer evoke many emotions. For some they are seen as a nuisance, for others they are seen as a hunting pursuit, and for others still they are seen as docile symbols of “nature”. No matter how you view deer personally, harsh winters and over-abundant populations can lead to problems for land-owners. Deer can be responsible for damages to crops and gardens, as well as pose a risk to drivers through vehicle collisions.

Damage Identification

Deer do not have any upper teeth at the front of their mouth. As a result, plant browsing damage as a result of deer has a torn or jagged appearance. This is in contrast to other species, such as snowshoe hare or rodents, which will create clean edges on leaves from nibbling.

Methods of Coping

The key to controlling deer damage is prevention, or at the very least, addressing the damage early on. When deer become accustomed to an area or activity, they are much more difficult to control.

There has been limited success in the use of deterrents, such as scarecrows. These are much more effective as a preventative measure, and not a good way of coping with ongoing or existing damages.

Fencing

Fencing, while expensive, has been demonstrated to be one of the only effective methods of preventing damage from deer. Depending on the crop and the size of the field (are you protecting a garden plot, or significant acreage?) different kinds of fences are recommended.

A good description of the different kinds of fences recommended to farmers can be found here

Cultural Methods

Harvest crops as early as possible to reduce the period of time that crops are vulnerable to deer

Habitat modification is not recommended.  As deer forage over large areas, it is unlikely that the destruction of woody areas in one region of a person’s property would effectively deter them. Furthermore, this would destroy important habitat for other species.

Lure crops (so deer are less likely to visit productive crops) have been used by some. These, however, have not been demonstrated to be effective, and may even have the unwanted result of attracting more deer.

In gardens, select plant species that are less desirable to deer (A list of plants developed by the University of Cornell in New York can be found here 

Hunting

While preventative methods are preferred, if deer populations are not in balance with their natural food sources, hunting is an option that may be used to cope with deer overabundance.

To hunt deer in Nova Scotia you must have:

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