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What Can You Do?

There are a number of tools available to citizens to guard against deer damage to property.


    Deer prefer certain plants over others. For example, they love hostas, azaleas and arborvitae. By choosing species that are undesirable to deer, you can reduce the amount of damage to many ornamental plants. Plants with a bitter or spicy taste, milky sap, or thorny, hairy, or tough leaves and stems are unpalatable to deer. However, no plant is truly "deer-resistant" -- deer will browse the best of what's around and there is not a definite way to predict what deer will or will not eat. However, there are trees and plants that deer tend not to eat. Please consult deer-resistant plants for a working list.

    Deer will rarely jump over a fence at least 8' high or a space that they perceive to be an enclosure. The IDNR offers advice on a number of different fences to keep deer out of yards and gardens, such as the 8' Deer-Proof Fence and snow fence described below.

    • Eight foot deer proof fence: This fence is constructed using two widths of woven wire fencing to provide a minimum height of eight feet. Deer can easily jump fences of lower heights. Posts should be placed 10-12 feet apart. The use of this type of fence would best suit the need to restrict deer from a small, highly valued crop for an extended period of time.
    • Snow fencing: Lattice type snow fencing can be used successfully around small garden plots, but deer tend to jump the fence if too large an area is surrounded. Snow fencing is less expensive than woven wire and can be removed and reused as needed.
    • Angled fencing: Deer have poor depth perception. An fence top angled at 45 degrees toward the outside will often deter a deer.

    (Note that Bloomington Municipal Code allows fencing no higher than 8' in a backyard and 4' in a front yard. City Code also prohibits the installation and use of electrified or barbed fences. Please consult your neighborhood covenant, if applicable, for any further restrictions.)

    Repellants can be effective to deter deer over a limited time period in a localized area. Repellants do not eliminate browsing, they only reduce it. When food is scarce, deer may ignore both taste and odor repellents. There are a variety of repellents available. Some you can make yourself. Some are commercially available.

    Home Remedies

    • Hair Bags: Sometimes deer are deterred by human hair. Try putting bags of human hair in fine mesh bags and hang the bags from areas that are experiencing the heaviest browsing. Bags should be placed in the spring, at least 3' apart and replaced monthly. IDNR recommends protecting hair bags from the elements by putting the bag in a plastic container (like a milk jug) and cutting out the bottom of the jug so the smell of the hair can be emitted. Check with local salons and barbers for free hair!
    • Soap: Bars of soap can be used in the same way as hair bags. Suspend strongly-scented soap from tree branches or in bags near the damage, again no greater than 3' apart. Weathering actually makes the soap more effective! (Many people swear by the use of Irish Spring, right.)
    • Bloodmeal: Bloodmeal spread within 30" of the damage works for a short while, but may attract local dogs and other carnivores.

    Commercial Repellents
    When considering any chemical repellent, be fully aware of any and all application restrictions. Many commercial repellents are not safe for edible plants. The following is recommended by the IDNR.

    • Hinder®- is one of a few deer and rabbit repellents registered for use on edible plants. It may be applied directly to vegetables, field crops, ornamental plants, and fruit trees. Depending upon weather conditions, one application is generally effective for 2-4 weeks. For areas smaller than 30 acres, the manufacturer recommends direct application to the entire area. An 8-10 foot wide strip application is suggested for larger fields.
    • Magic Circle®- is considered safe for most vegetable, orchard, and field crops because it is applied to the perimeter of the area to be protected. Application is recommended for a 6-10 foot band around the crop area. Endurance is greatly influenced by weather conditions. Reapplication is recommended after heavy rains or dew.
    • Thiram®- is a fungicide that repels the deer by taste. It is sold under a number of commercial names including Gufstason 42-s. Application is recommended for dormant trees and shrubs.
    • Ro-pel®- may be applied directly to nursery and Christmas trees, ornamental, and flowering trees and plants. It should not be used with edible crops.
    • Deer-Away®- repels deer by both odor and taste. Success has been shown in protecting ornamental trees, shrubs, and flower beds.**

    Methods for startling deer might be an effective and economic way to keep deer out of your yard, especially at the first sign of a problem. Strobe lights and noisemakers (such as a radio going on and off during the night) while effective, might annoy your neighbors. Motion-sensitive lights and sprinklers tend work equal to other scare devices and are likely not to make enemies of your neighbors. The problem with any hazing device is that they work best in the short term - deer eventually acclimate to scare devices, even when the devices are moved occasionally. Varying the scare devices every week may extend the protection for a longer period. Furthermore, even when placed on a timer, scare devices are indiscriminate and may scare away desired wildlife and actually attract others - for examples, raccoons are reported to love to play in motion-sensor sprinklers.

    NEVER attempt to scare away a deer by shooting it with a BB gun, a slingshot, paintball gun or similar device. Doing so is illegal under State law. It is illegal to discharge a firearm within City limits.

    To learn more about guarding your plants against deer damage, the following resources may also be helpful: