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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Buena Vista Garden, by Yarddawg

Loving Deer to Death

Over the past few years there has been an increasing number of complaints from homeowners about the exploding deer population and the resultant destruction to gardens. This is not limited to rural areas alone; urban areas are seeing an explosion in the deer population as well. A hungry herd of deer can decimate an entire landscape in hours or a small vegetable garden in minutes.

I have never enjoyed hunting. I toyed with dove hunting a few times years ago and duck hunting exactly once in my life. As for deer hunting, it's hard for me to understand why anyone would want to get up early on a cold damp morning and shimmy up a tree and then sit shivering all day just to maybe get off a single shot at Bambi… But I'm glad they do because humans are now about the only predator humans will tolerate. Even that is becoming more difficult; there are counties in North Carolina which have banned deer hunting altogether.

Some people, like me, are concerned that over-population will lead to disease (rabies for one) and additional problems with the absence of natural predators. There are deer right here in Buena Vista and Winston-Salem according to sightings I've heard reported. Don't get me wrong -- I do not advocate hunting in my neighborhood for obvious reasons. Many Boovees would probably even tolerate Bambi using their yards as an all-you-can-eat buffet.

The problem is there are no (ALLOWED) natural predators to keep the population in check. The tolerance for wildlife in the city garden will certainly end when native-to-NC bobcats, cougars, coyotes, fox, and wolves show up intending to reclaim deer as part of their natural diet. And oh, by the way, if Fido or Morris just happen to be outside, imagine the outrage if a gray wolf decided on a pet snack or attacked a human. That is their job after all.

(If this happened, another endangered species, Local News, might even make a comeback like it did last year when a black bear was shot and killed inside the Winston-Salem city limits… JUST for being there.)

Cutting to the chase, When push comes to shove a hungry deer will eat anything rather than starve. However there are deer resistant plants that will be eaten as a last resort. There are also profiteers selling all kinds of products that promise miraculous results but buyer beware. Remaining skeptical is wise and cheaper. Many of the homemade tricks touted by some are also scientifically suspect or unproven by research.

Here is a list of researched based deer resistant plants from NC Cooperative Extension and another from Plant Delights Nursery which conducts many research trials of its own. And Chapel Hill gardener and Garden Blogger, "Defining Your Home Garden" Freda Cameron, has developed, mainly through trial an error, a comprehensive plant list and planting strategy for minimizing deer destruction. For good measure rabbits are also included in her list, lest we be accused of singling out just one species. I also enjoyed her article "Not Tonight Deer'" published in Southern Living Magazine on page 52 of the July, 2010 issue.

The deer problem is not going away anytime soon and will likely get worse before it gets better.
- Yarddawg

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