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  • Jan
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Oh, Deer

Posted by at 1:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Oh, Deer by Rick ThompsonAre deer devouring your landscape? Some people use fences and other methods to keep them out—most of which can harm the deer and also interfere with their natural habitat. How about a simple, safe, and natural deterrent? And one that’s free, renewable, and humane? (Hint: It grows on dogs.)

During the winter, deer love to feast on nutrient-rich flower and leaf buds and nibble on evergreens, like rhododendron. In our mid-Atlantic region, those buds and green leaves in the dead of winter are a veritable smorgasbord for deer.

While I enjoy seeing deer, I don’t enjoy seeing them destroy my landscape plantings.  Since deer are very sensitive to smells, one solution that I’ve found to be fairly effective is to strategically place dog hair on the most vulnerable plantings.

A longhaired dog with a coarse coat is an ideal source of hair. Nellie, our rescued German shepherd/golden retriever mix, has perfect hair for this. Each time I brush her, I save the collected hair and keep it in a sealed plastic bag to preserve the scent. The only exception is soon after she gets a bath, as the hair may not have enough of her scent. Daily brushings during shedding season result in a bumper crop of hair.

From the bag of collected dog hair, a clump is gently pulled and twisted so that it can be tied around a twig close to a bud, as shown in the photo. I choose a few buds on some of the outermost branches of select trees and shrubs, focusing on the perimeter of the area I’m trying to protect. The hair is tied in a knot so that it stays attached, but not so tight that it strangles the twig.


There’s hair, and then there’s hare. Fortunately, this same technique can be used year-round to help discourage rabbits from nibbling on your favorite plants that are also their favorite plants.

Come spring, there’s an added bonus. Birds gather some of Nellie’s hair to line their nests, and chipmunks scurry to their holes with some of her hair to add comfort to their dens. An all natural cruelty-free solution that helps everyone!

Foolproof? No. A deterrent?  Yes—at least in my experience.

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  • I train golden retrievers and this is a great tip I had never heard. They are wonderful animals, and it is so interesting that their coat has additional use.

  • Roberta Stewart says:

    I am very concerned about the polypropylene plastic netting that is currently available for covering shrubs and plants to prevent damage from deer, birds and other animals. This net is a hazard to birds in the same way that plastic rings from six-packs of beverages are hazardous to waterfowl. A bird can be trapped in the holes of the netting and die struggling to escape. This is NOT a humane solution to plant and crop loss in your garden.

  • David Fiske says:

    It has never worked for me with deer, raccoons or rabbits. Nor has clanging pans or CD’s. When the nights aren’t freezing the only safe method is something called a scare crow which is a motion detector that sprays water with a noise. This works admirably for deer but in small area so in large garden ,1 acre, like mine I need 4 at a cost of $100 each. In the freezing weather I tried to work it with my air compressor but the system couldn’t stop the air escaping. The only thing then is a proper fenced in area. I love watching the deer (sometimes 8!) and this seems to be the price to be paid.

  • Pooky says:

    AWESOME IDEA !!! : )

  • Mauna says:

    Thank you for sharing ways to help us all live peaceably together. We live on a farm in a rural area replete with wildlife, including beloved deer. There are also dogs and cats everywhere and the deer have no fear of their scent. I’ve tried Everything through the years to keep deer out of my large garden, and finally, this past year I found a safe, relatively inexpensive method that worked and allowed me to enjoy a bounteous harvest of vegetables without any deer predation whatsoever, a very rare thing in *these here parts.* I set metal T-posts at 8-12 foot intervals (easy to set and remove) and stretched woven wire farm fencing along them–rather than using fence clips, I simply wove the wire down over the posts, again, to make it easy to remove for tiller and tractor access and to store at season’s end. That alone would be a joke at keeping out deer. Here’s the Simple Magic that Really worked! At frequent intervals, I tied plastic grocery bags to the fencing. I thought this too likely would be an effort in futility until I was working in the garden and was startled by a strange sound. It was the plastic bags rustling in the slightest breeze! The white bags appear as an apparition day and night and with the movement and the sound, they work as an unbelievably effective deer deterrent! At only four feet high, the farm fencing is so low that there is extremely little chance that a deer would be injured if one did jump it. Their safety has always been paramount in any deterrent measures I’ve tried. Seems too simple to be true, but a pantry filled with canned and dried crowder peas, corn, zucchini and cucumber relish, tomatoes, and other wondrous gifts from my summer garden attest to the effectiveness of the simple plastic bags! An added benefit to using T-posts is that birds absolutely love to light atop them thus drawing helpers to the garden to feast on insects.

  • Kris Lecakes Haley says:

    This is great and timely news. The folks at cayugadeer.org have been trying for months and months to offer alternatives to townspeople and the town’s board of trustees who have been planning to have the deer shot. I’ll pass it right along! Thanks!

  • Cynthia says:

    I wonder if cat fur would deter rabbits. I’m guessing it wouldn’t deter deer.

  • Robin says:

    This is a great tip – I’ve been tossing fur and such outdoors for birds to use, but didn’t know it could work as a natural repellant. So smart!

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