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The White-tailed Deer or Who ate My Garden?

January 1, 2013
White-tailed Deer fawns

White-tailed Deer fawns

I had a garden this summer for the first time in years – and I managed to keep the deer out. I had a predator electric fence  to keep the bears out of the orchard and away from the house. The garden and my bird feeders were also behind the electric fence. I had put wrapped aluminum foil coated with peanut butter on a few of the wires so that the bear would get the shock on its nose before it had a chance to figure out a way into the fenced area. The deer, however,  also tasted the peanut butter and kept out of the garden and orchard – and my bird feeders.

White-tailed Deer in winter

White-tailed Deer in winter

I woke up on this first day of 2013, however, to find that the deer had jumped the fence and cleaned out what was left of the garden under the snow – and some of my bird feed. I had kept the electric fence on until a week ago to see if I could keep the deer out of my bird feed – they could clean me out of bird feed in no time at all! So, the fence goes on again and the peanut butter goes back on the wire. I put the bird feeders higher up on the trees too – just in case!

Young white-tailed deer buck

Young white-tailed deer buck

I do enjoy watching the deer.  This summer a doe had left her fawn near my home. People sometimes think that a fawn left alone in the grass has been deserted, but that is not often the case.  The doe needs to feed most of the day.  She cannot continuously feed and run from predators with a young fawn that is unable to keep up.   The fawn near my home stayed immobile the entire afternoon, waiting for the doe to turn up and feed it.

White-tailed deer fawn in the grass, waiting for the doe to come back.

White-tailed deer fawn in the grass, waiting for the doe to come back.

Doe returning to feed her fawn

Doe returning to feed her fawn

The doe had put the fawn about a meter from the road, however, and dogs and people were finding the fawn. The doe came back for the fawn later that evening and I saw them go back into the woods, away from the road.  The road may have seemed safe to the doe – a coyote may have hesitated to come so close to the road in the day light.

Old white-tailed deer resting in an apple orchard

Old white-tailed deer resting in an apple orchard

Deer can evoke strong emotions from people. Deer can attack dogs and people with their sharp hooves and a buck in rut or a doe defending a fawn can be a dangerous animal to encounter. And then there are their dietary preferences: anything in your garden! But others love to have deer around their homes. And the deer have learned that predators, such as cougars and coyotes, might be less inclined to come near humans – making our communities seem like “safe havens” to some deer.

Living in the Kootenays means living with wildlife – however we may feel about wild animals.  We always seem to be re-negotiating the terms of our truce with our neighbourhood wildlife.  I am willing to work on ways to keep deer from “cleaning me out of house and home” while enjoying watching them out my window.  I suppose that makes me a good neighbour!

All photos and writing in this blog copyright J.A.Siderius

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