We live in deer country, and with increasing winter snow depths, there is a high chance that hungry deer will visit yards, especially those on the bench, looking for food. The deer family in Utah includes mule deer, elk and moose. In some areas, white-tailed deer have made their presence known.
The only way to truly protect your landscape from browsing deer is to build an 8-foot or higher fence. This can be costly and may cause the angst of your neighbors. The other way to protect your yard is to gradually replace plants that are preferred by deer with those that can tolerate deer browsing or are not appealing to them.
By planning and planting the right varieties now, you can watch the deer in your yard next winter without fear of what they will do to your landscape.
* The best option is to select plants that are either deer resistant or can recover quickly from browsing. Native species such as Gambel oak, chokecherry, hawthorn, sumac and serviceberry should be considered first since they have evolved under deer browsing pressure and are better adapted to Utah’s climate. Other plants to consider include several species of maple, ash, blue Engleman and blue spruce, holly and narrow leaf cottonwood. Blending a variety of native and ornamental plants into a home landscape can create a people-friendly environment and provide winter wildlife cover and native browse species that can recover from use.
* If you have a landscape that includes highly desirable plants that deer and elk have already found, now is the time to consider enclosing the area with a fence that is at least 7 feet high. Fences that are lower or that are made of decorative slats, wood or metal may reduce the damage, but won’t eliminate it. If the snow is deep and the animals are hungry, even good fences won’t make good wildlife. If you are experiencing damage throughout the year, fencing remains a good option.
* Repellents such as systemic insecticides, human hair, soap and other chemicals, as well as outdoor lighting and artificial noise, aren’t reliable. Hungry animals will ignore repellents to browse available plants. In winter, thoroughly wrapping plants with both burlap and several layers of plastic netting will work, but it can become costly and time consuming.
* For further information on deer-resistant plants, visit http://wildlife.utah.gov/habitat/deer-browse.php or contact your local Utah State University Extension office. For the address of the office nearest you, visit http://extension.usu.edu/.
By: Terry Messmer - May 20, 2014