Bad Bambi - Solving the Deer Problem

Deer will eat everything. Here's how to stop them.  

Deer overpopulation is a serious problem. I blame X-box. That's because the next generation of potential deer hunters would rather spend the weekend sitting in an increasingly form-fitting gaming chair rather than a freezing deer blind. Wolves and cougars would be happy to fill in for the derelict hunters, but namby-pamby suburbanites don't want alpha predators slinking around the pre-school playground. Besides deer are cute.

No they are not!
Deer destroy plants with the merciless efficiency of a biblical plague. One year I planted 40 lingonberry plants. They grew well for months, until the deer made their sortie late one October night. The deer systematically pulled up each lingonberry plant by the roots—decided it was not palatable—and then spit it out. The next day the patch looked like a Civil War battlefield, with dozens of young lingonberry lives ended much too soon.

Thus began my quest for a final solution to the deer problem. Everyone I asked had a folksy approach; none of them worked. Hanging bars of soap is a popular recommendation. Irish Spring and Lifebouy both failed to do anything. (BTW, do we really need a "U" in Lifeboy?). Dryer sheets are also a fail; I suspect the deer gathered them up and rubbed them on their fur to make it soft and static-free. The various commercial anti-deer sprays are effective for about one day. Most plants need longer than a day to mature. 

The only real solution is a physical barrier, I concluded. So I planted 100 chestnut trees and wrapped each in an indestructible plastic plant tube. "Take that!" I shouted to any deer who would listen.  

I fully expect to hear a tale of deer being used by druglords to jump over 30-foot border walls

It is true that deer cannot chew through a tree tube, but they are clever enough to push their snouts under the tube and lift it off. They decimated half my trees in one night. I tried securing the tubes, but nomatter what I did, the deer had countermeasures. It was time for the nuclear option: a fence.

The problem is that fences are expensive. And they get exponentially more costly as they get taller. Local "experts" loved to regale me with stories of deer that they saw jump over a 12-foot fence. Or a 15-foot fence. I'm not sure of the motivation to revel in a deer's superhuman powers (OK, superdeer powers). But I fully expect to hear a tale of deer being used by druglords to jump over 30-foot border walls.

I figured a 6-foot fence would be worth trying, since that was all I could afford. Surprisingly my experience showed that deer in these parts will not jump a 6-foot fence. However, they will push under.

Yes, that is the great untold truth about deer. They would rather push under a fence than jump over. I'm not saying deer couldn't jump a six, eight, or twelve-foot fence. Most can. But they will only jump that high when panicked. Similarly, I haven't climbed a tree since 1971, but if I was being chased by a hungry polar bear, I believe I could. (Although there are no trees where polar bears live, so that's not the best analogy.)

So I spent one wet spring securing the bottom of my fence; and my deer problem evaporated overnight. Well almost. Once I finished the fence, I discovered I had sealed it up with one deer on the inside. I got some perverse joy from chasing this deer while maniacally laughing like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.” Then I began to wonder about what I'd do when the deer was finally cornered. Would it try to attack me? Did I have a weapon to defend myself? Would my obituary read "killed by Bambi"? At the moment of truth, our eyes locked. The deer lowered its head, and effortlessly hopped over the fence to freedom. 

I'm clinging to the belief that the only reason it could jump my fence was because my alpha-male predator appearance induced an adrenaline-fueled flight response. Yep, that must be the reason. 


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