Deer: Attract or deter?

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(Photo courtesy of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Office)

 AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Deer in residential areas—homeowners either love the friendly visitors or wish they would leave plants alone. While hunting season has come and gone, traces of white-tailed deer in residential areas or on landowners’ property are nearing their peak. According to Alabama Extension Professor Mark Smith, white-tailed deer may begin to increase herbivory in residential areas. Whether to welcome them, or steer them in another direction, there are some basic steps to take to attract these creatures. 

Pro-Deer: Residential 

“Keep in mind, although you may like deer, your neighbors may not,” he said. 

Discuss with your HOA or fellow homeowners whether or not attracting deer to your yard or neighborhood is desirable. If the intention is to draw them into your yard, simply provide a lot of new growth. Natural resources, such as herbaceous plants, ornamental bushes or even small trees will intrigue them. A vegetable garden, in particular, looks like a five-star meal. There is little more required to attract white-tailed deer to residential areas. They are always there but will be more likely to visit if there is fresh growth to chew. However, you should never feed them beyond natural resources. 

Pro-Deer: Rural 

For individuals who own or live on rural land, there are several options for deer habitat management. Whether for hunting purposes or simply to provide a healthier habitat, these steps are sure to help attract them to these areas. 

“For those who own rural land, now is a good time to start thinking about habitat management to improve the forage and cover requirements for white-tailed deer,” Smith said. 

According to Smith, management practices, such as prescribed burning or planting warm season food plots, can help improve habitats. Prescribed burns benefit these habitats by stimulating the growth of various grasses or other plants. Warm season food plots draw the deer’s attention because they include some of their favorite snacks. 

Anti-Deer 

While deer can be a beautiful sight in the backyard, they can also wreak havoc on plants, bushes or small trees. 

“Although it is a concern throughout the year, some residential areas may see increases in damage to ornamental plants during this time of year,” Smith said. 

When it comes to deterring visits from them, homeowners or neighborhood areas may try installing wire caging around plants. Fencing around yards and gardens can also serve as a barrier. In rural areas, it will be a challenge to keep them out. However, if there are specific plants homeowners would like them to stay away from, the fencing will help. 

More Information 

Whether the hope is to lure them in or steer them away, it is important to have a plan for these white-tailed visitors. For more information on deer management, visit the Alabama Extension website, https://www.aces.edu/.