Many tactics available to control deer damage

As suburban sprawl continues to encroach on wildlife habitats, deer are increasingly becoming a nuisance. It may be enjoyable observing wildlife on your property, but many Gwinnett residents are having negative encounters with wild animals.

The Gwinnett County Extension office regularly receives calls regarding problematic wildlife, but we receive the most calls regarding deer.

Deer love to feast on landscape plants, as well as vegetable plants and fruit trees. Gardeners want a surefire way to control these animals without harming them, but unfortunately, there is no silver bullet.

The best course of action, as backed by research from the University of Georgia, is a combined approach. To begin with, deer prefer some plants over others. Red maple, butterfly bushes, barberry, marigolds and zinnias are some of the plants they avoid. However, deer will eat almost any plant that has lush, new growth on it, and planting resistant plants will not always deter deer.

As the saying goes: Do not feed the animals. Providing feed to the deer only makes your home landscape more attractive.

Deer like to enter open spaces from wooded areas. To reduce this problem, cut out and remove shrub covers at the forest edge to keep them from utilizing this area. Deer prefer to enter and exit from the same area. You can deter them by putting up electric fences where they're commonly seen. Cover some strands of wire with a smear of peanut butter to shock the animals. Areas can also be protected with an 8-foot-tall fencing of hog wire, but note that this method can be more expensive.

Sometimes scare tactics can be used to deter deer. Objects, such as pie tins and aluminum foil, can be placed in trees. Deer can also be scared away be lights, sprinklers and barking dogs.

Chemical repellents that are a deterrent to deer are useful, although not long-lasting. The repellents with sulfurous odors work the best, and those with taste repellents are not as effective. A few repellents that work well include Hinder (used every two weeks), Deer Away (one application per season) and Deer Off (one application per season).

Several factors influence the effectiveness of the repellent. Rainfall decreases the strength of the repellents, meaning reapplication may be necessary after a rain.

As the human population imposes on wildlife habitats, more pressure is put on deer and other wild animals. They are being forced to turn to landscape plants as an alternative because their natural food sources are being destroyed.

Timothy Daly is an agricultural and natural resource agent with the Gwinnett County Extension Service. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.