Deer Damage and Control
Deer damage or feed on a wide variety of fruits and vegetables such as cole crops, lettuce, grapes, corn, pumpkins, berries, tomatoes, fruit trees and other plants. Because white-tailed deer lack upper incisor teeth, deer damage leaves a jagged edge on twigs or stems, compared with a clean-cut surface left by rodents and rabbit feeding. Vegetables are readily eaten, and entire gardens may be destroyed. Sweet corn tips are eaten, including the silk and one to two inches of the ear, but occasionally plants are grazed to the ground. In addition, deer trample many crops as they move about the field.
last updated May 2007
Life History and Habits
Deer are active in Connecticut
year round. Breeding occurs from October to December. Fawns are
born in May and June, weighing about eight pounds at birth and
increasing in weight over the next six to seven years. Peak feeding activity occurs in early morning
and late evening, thus deer damage the garden without being seen.
Damage by deer in Connecticut is increasing as residential development
forces deer into smaller and smaller habitats and wild food sources
Deer are protected during all
times of the year except various hunting seasons or by obtaining
special crop damage permits. All methods of destroying deer such
as using traps, poisons, toxic baits, etc. are illegal. Use of
illegal methods are dangerous to domestic animals and individuals
and may result in liability for damage and poor public relations.
- Hunting during the legal season
or with Special permits will help reduce deer populations and
crop damage. To obtain a special permit, a commercial grower
must be able to demonstrate severe damage (a loss of at least
$2500) to the crop, The grower has to apply to the Division of
Wildlife, Department of Environmental Protection, Franklin Wildlife
Management Area Field Office at 860-642-7239. More information
can be obtained by calling this number.
- Fences are the best nonlethal
way to protect a field from deer damage, For large areas, wire
fences should be at least eight feet high and can be made using
two, four-foot widths of welded wire fencing joined one on top
of the other. A high voltage electric fence can be effective
if properly maintained. A number of commercial styles and systems
are available, but costs are high.
- Plant highly susceptible crops
as far from wooded cover as possible. This method provides only
slight protection, at best, since deer forage over a large area.
- Bars of fragrant soap will
keep, deer from crops at critical times. The best soap to use
is the small, heavily perfumed, individually wrapped bars. Leave
the wrapper on the bar, drill a small hole through the soap and
hang from stakes or plants around the perimeter of the field.
The repellent is short-lived as deer become accustomed to fragrances.
Remove soap when protection is no lon ger required.
- Animal specialists state that
a mixture of a dozen eggs and five gallons of water can be applied
to the ground using a pressure sprayer. The deer are repelled
by the odor as the eggs rot in the ground, but humans will not
detect it. This mixture will cover approximately one acre. Reapplication
is necessary after each rainfall. Do not allow egg shells in
the mixture or the sprayer may become plugged. Fermented whole
egg solids Deer Away, Big Game Repellent) are commercially available
from garden supply stores. Consult label for directions.
- A half-and-half mixture of
bone meal plus blood meal may effectively repel deer for a limited
time. Several reports indicate blood meal by itself may be effective.
These materials are available at garden centers and can be hung
in small bags around the field.
- Noisemaking devices and lights
may discourage deer, but results are erratic and long-term effectiveness
is unlikely. These devices may be annoying to neighbors. Permits
are needed for many noisemaking devices.
- Human hair, placed in nylon
stockings or plastic bags with holes punched in them and hung
from stakes or plants around the field, may be an effective repellent.
Results have been erratic in repellency tests. Human hair can
be obtained from barber shops.
- Rancid grease or meat scraps
(often called meat meal or tankage) can be placed in mesh bags
or tin cans without lids and hung around the perimeter of the
field. Puncture holes in the bottom of cans to allow rain to
drain out and hang high enough off the ground to keep dogs and
other animals from pulling them down. A by-product of the poultry
industry called Feathermeal (ground chicken feathers) can be
used similarly. These materials are effective only during warm
weather and durability is from two to six weeks.
- A commercially made hot pepper
sauce is available (Hot Sauce Animal Repellent) to repel various
animals. Use two tablespoons of hot sauce in 12 1/2 gallons of
water with a retention additive (Wilt-Pruf or Vapor-Gard) to
make vegetation distasteful to deer. Apply when animals first
start to feed. Animals attempting to eat treated plant material
will not be harmed, and the hot sensation in their mouth and
throat will discourage further feeding. Consult label for complete
directions and restrictions before using.
- Manure and urine of large cats
(tigers, lions, cougars) can be obtained from zoos and is reported
to be very effective in preventing deer damage. Do not apply
directly to foliage or edible parts. A disadvantage of these
materials is that they do not weather well. Frequent reapplications
may be necessary. Commercial products are available but difficult
- Hinder and Repel (ammonium
soaps of higher fatty acids) are odor repellents that can be
applied directly to plants. They are effective but are easily
washed off by rainfall. These materials can be applied in combination
with normal pesticide applications but are not effective when
applied to bare ground. Consult label for details and directions.
- Thiram (tetramethylthiuram)
is an effective repellent for use on nonfood crops. It is available
under the names 'TMTD, Cunite or Bonide Deer Repellent. Consult
label for directions before using.
Many of these methods are effective
for only short periods of time because deer adjust to them. Combinations
of methods may provide better long-term results.
Prepared by Norman L. Gauthier, Cooperative Extension Educator/Entomologist, University of Connecticut
Photos by Richard A. Ashley, University of Connecticut
Related deer information
Animal Damage Control--White Tailed Deer
The information in this material is for educational purposes. The recommendations contained are based on the best available knowledge at the time of printing. Any reference to commercial products, trade or brand names is for information only, and no endorsement or approval is intended. The Cooperative Extension system does not guarantee or warrant the standard of any product referenced or imply approval of the product to the exclusion of others which also may be available.All agrochemicals/pesticides listed are registered for suggested uses in accordance with federal and Connecticut state laws and regulations as of the date of printing. If the information does not agree with current labeling, follow the label instructions. The label is the law.Warning! Agrochemicals/pesticides are dangerous. Read and follow all instructions and safety precautions on labels. Carefully handle and store agrochemicals/pesticides in originally labeled containers immediately in a safe manner and place. Contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection for current regulations.The user of this information assumes all risks for personal injury or property damage.Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kirklyn M. Kerr, Director, Cooperative Extension System, The University of Connecticut, Storrs. The Connecticut Cooperative Extension System offers its programs to persons regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability and is an equal opportunity employer.