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Mark Shepard on dealing with heavy deer pressure

 
Joe Skeletor
Posts: 113
Location: Blue Island, Illinois - Zone 6a - (Lake Effect) - surrounded by zone 5b
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Hello Mark -

I am wondering if you could write a bit about dealing with deer pressure in a food forest. Especially during the initial start-up phase, with lots of seedling and whatnot. Being surrounded by miles of industrial agriculture is a pain!

I went to a permaculture workshop with Joel of Kings Hill farm (ex?) and he mentioned creating corridors and natural barriers for their heavy deer presence. I feel like he may have mentioned you helping with the set-up of this.

What are some of the better species of trees and shrubs one could use for natural barriers? Also, what are some other methods of moderating deer pressure that you find have worked the best?

I'm really excited that you're here on the forum, Mark! I saw a workshop of yours at the MOSES conference a few years ago. It was definitely the best presentation of that weekend! Thanks and take care - Joe O
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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we have large numbers of deer here in Michigan where I plant but also we have something that can be even more devastating, rabbits !

In order to protect my trees when they are very small here, we put a lot of stuff around our baby trees to act as a barrier for the rabbits and deer. You can take things like logs and brush and pile them around your trees, rocks and stones, and if you have the money even wire fencing is a great barrier around a baby tree. You can buy things to protect tree trunks, but they also tend to cause moisture build up and rot on the tree trunks.

You also can take a paper stapler, and just staple a piece of paper or cardboard that is wrapped once around the tree..you'll often see things like this in nurseries..but remove it regularly so the tree can get air inside..or leave it very loose..

for me the piles of logs and brush work quite well against rabbits..but the deer tend to be taller than the brush and can reach down and nibble off the tops..so often you'll get a little top damage..but generally it won't kill the entire graft or top part if root grown.

hair from a barber or soap sometimes helps, or maybe the bone sauce that Sepp recommends. I honestly think if you can have a physical barrier that prevents the critters from getting close enough to do damage you are better off..sometimes just planting nurse trees around your fruit trees will be helpful. I had an apple seedling that grew on it's own out of the center of a bunch of tag alders ..that kept it alive.
 
Rick Larson
Posts: 210
Location: Manitowoc WI USA Zone 5
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I used a fine mesh fence immediately around the sapling, then a large mesh 6 foot fence 5 feet in diameter around this. My garden has a 6 foot fence around it to keep the deer away, with a fine mesh fence bent in 90 degrees at the bottom, designed to keep the digging critters out. Continuing drought will have the critters more interested in what we are growing. That is all I know...
 
laura sharpe
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Bone sauce...there is a sepp video on how to make it
 
Mark Shepard
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Hey All...
Deer.... There are some places, like here in SW WI, where they estimate that there are over 50deer per square mile. That would mean that there are 12.5 deer RESIDING on my farm, let alone passing through sniffin for the girls, marking our territory and all that stuff...

What we did first here, and suggested to Joel at Kings Hill, is to OBSERVE first... Permaculture # 1. Look for all of the "energy flows" that impact a site. Scout out all of the deer trails. Where are they coming from? Where are they going? Where do they bed down? What are they feeding on? What times of day are they moving through your place? If you're not tuned into the wildlife cycles where you live, you now have something to do. We are now re-entering into a relationship with nature. We need to know these things... If you aren't currently skilled enough to identify wildlife sign on your property, there are "tracker school' people and hunters who are and they will be more than happy to show you where all the deer trails are...
Once you find the trails and determine their habits, begin planting your perennial edible woody crop system. As you're laying out your rows (according to the keyline plan) when you come near to a deer trail plant a couple of hybrid poplars or willows as you approach the trail... Both species grow faster than your food system, and since the deer are just cruising through they're only looking for nibbles on their way to wherever they're going... Do they need shelter? Do they need water? Provide them with both along well stocked willow and poplar trails. Their current habit of following their current trail gets reinforced and they cluelessly wander by your tender young expensive trees for a few years.
Another thing is NUMBERS.... If you plant 3, $500.00 trees the deer will find them. If you plant 500 $3.00 trees, they may find 40 or 50 of them. That means you still end up with 275 more trees than if you only bought 3. If you plant a 10' X 10' patch of sweet corn the coons will eat every ear. You plant 10 acres and they might eat 1/10th of it. Plant 100 acres and they can only nibble at the edges... There are a lot of things in Restoration Agriculture that require minimum viable populations. There are many of those minimum viable populations that we just don't know about yet... How many acres of a perennial polyculture does it take to get effective disease control? It'll be different for every polyculture mix...
But Deer.... 1 doz eggs in 5 gallons of water splashed on the trees once per month will work. Garlic and hot pepper have NOT worked for us neither has Bitrex

If you only have a few trees or have the resources to protect your trees, I would recommend the 3ft plastic tree-mats for weed control and a 5ft tree tube for deer, mouse and rabbit protection. This is just about "bomb proof". A good source of mats and tubes is http://www.treeprotection.org/ it's run as a fundraiser for a non-profit conservation organization and most of the times their products are available at a lower price than you can get them from the manufacturer...

You can also tie your dog out randomly here and there every night... I once knew a produce grower who had a 12V motion sensor light attached to an iPod hooked up to bigass speakers. The iPod was tuned (in their case) to Jimi Hendrix. A deer goes by and Hendrix starts burning the strings and the light flashes... They mounted it on a little garden wagon and moved it to a different random location every night... Worked on most everything!

For rabbits we used to use spiral plastic tree guards. We preferred Phish to Hendrix anyways...

 
laura sharpe
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phish to hendrix...arg

sounds like good advise for a hundred acres but I have much less than an acre and I think many are getting by with 5 or less. I live about a hundred yards from a large Cook county (chicago) forest preserve which in past years has had very heavy deer pressure from it. Knowing that these deer wander though my neighbors yards and like to rest by the school is useless information to me .

In the last few years, the number of deer has been cut by at least half, possibly decimated and I am unsure of the cause although my money is on disease considering the over population, I expect, due to lack of predators, the population will bounce back.

well that is just me whining....I know you just own the tree tubes you linked. I was wondering if you know if they will decompose after a while, I am thinking they look like a very good idea for my ninja tree planting.
 
Mark Shepard
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Laura... The tree tubes I mentioned are amazingly disgusting... They are designed to last for years in intense UV... They are plastic. You will need to put them in a pile in an intersection in downtown Chicago and burn them some day... Or something...

They WORK against deer, mice and rabbits... They'll keep your trees alive... With a small number of trees in a DEER HEAVY area like you're in, they might be just the ticket... Gotta do what ya gotta do...

 
Brenda Groth
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the tree tubes will work well for baby trees, but once they outgrow the tree tubes and the branches stick out at the top, the branches are now fodder for whatever can reach them..they do well in protecting the trunks but not upper branches..you'll still want to put some wire mesh around the tops of your baby trees until they reach enough height to be out of nibble reach of white tail deer, which will stand on their hind legs to eat tree foliage and tender shoots..

Here in Michigan in the winter you can look thru the forest and see clearly for a long distance UNDER the deer on hind leg height..where they have stripped off all of the branches of all of the trees except evergreens to about a height of 5'..it really is a strange thing to see if you haven't seen it.

In the past few years we have had very MILD winters in Michigan so a lot of the trees are growing lower branches, but you get a cold hard winter with a ton of snow (we have 3" on the level today) and they'll be eating the branches right off even the largest trees as high up as they can reach, or they die.
 
Tyler Ludens
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We use concrete reinforcing mesh, which is strong enough to hold itself up without stakes. It's about 5 feet tall, but if the circle is smallish the deer won't jump into it. It needs to be just large enough so the deer can't reach their noses through to browse the tree. Without these kinds of protection, anything planted here will get mowed down by Whitetail and Axis deer. This kind of wire is very durable and can be used for years, I expect it to outlast me.



 
andrew curr
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Location: Deepwater northern New South wales Australia
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Mark Shepard wrote:Hey All...
Deer.... There are some places, like here in SW WI, where they estimate that there are over 50deer per square mile. That would mean that there are 12.5 deer RESIDING on my farm, let alone passing through sniffin for the girls, marking our territory and all that stuff...

What we did first here, and suggested to Joel at Kings Hill, is to OBSERVE first... Permaculture # 1. Look for all of the "energy flows" that impact a site. Scout out all of the deer trails. Where are they coming from? Where are they going? Where do they bed down? What are they feeding on? What times of day are they moving through your place? If you're not tuned into the wildlife cycles where you live, you now have something to do. We are now re-entering into a relationship with nature. We need to know these things... If you aren't currently skilled enough to identify wildlife sign on your property, there are "tracker school' people and hunters who are and they will be more than happy to show you where all the deer trails are...
Once you find the trails and determine their habits, begin planting your perennial edible woody crop system. As you're laying out your rows (according to the keyline plan) when you come near to a deer trail plant a couple of hybrid poplars or willows as you approach the trail... Both species grow faster than your food system, and since the deer are just cruising through they're only looking for nibbles on their way to wherever they're going... Do they need shelter? Do they need water? Provide them with both along well stocked willow and poplar trails. Their current habit of following their current trail gets reinforced and they cluelessly wander by your tender young expensive trees for a few years.
Another thing is NUMBERS.... If you plant 3, $500.00 trees the deer will find them. If you plant 500 $3.00 trees, they may find 40 or 50 of them. That means you still end up with 275 more trees than if you only bought 3. If you plant a 10' X 10' patch of sweet corn the coons will eat every ear. You plant 10 acres and they might eat 1/10th of it. Plant 100 acres and they can only nibble at the edges... There are a lot of things in Restoration Agriculture that require minimum viable populations. There are many of those minimum viable populations that we just don't know about yet... How many acres of a perennial polyculture does it take to get effective disease control? It'll be different for every polyculture mix...
But Deer.... 1 doz eggs in 5 gallons of water splashed on the trees once per month will work. Garlic and hot pepper have NOT worked for us neither has Bitrex

If you only have a few trees or have the resources to protect your trees, I would recommend the 3ft plastic tree-mats for weed control and a 5ft tree tube for deer, mouse and rabbit protection. This is just about "bomb proof". A good source of mats and tubes is http://www.treeprotection.org/ it's run as a fundraiser for a non-profit conservation organization and most of the times their products are available at a lower price than you can get them from the manufacturer...

You can also tie your dog out randomly here and there every night... I once knew a produce grower who had a 12V motion sensor light attached to an iPod hooked up to bigass speakers. The iPod was tuned (in their case) to Jimi Hendrix. A deer goes by and Hendrix starts burning the strings and the light flashes... They mounted it on a little garden wagon and moved it to a different random location every night... Worked on most everything!

For rabbits we used to use spiral plastic tree guards. We preferred Phish to Hendrix anyways...

gold!!!1
 
Renate Howard
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Location: zone 6b
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In PA where there was similar deer pressure, people used some plastic deer mesh and fenced off their whole yards to keep them out. They can easily jump fences even 7' high but if you double fence it with the two fences about 4' apart, or string lots of fishing wire above the fence to make an invisible "barrier" they won't like to hit that might keep them out. If the deer pressure isn't too bad you can use the egg spray but the hungrier they are the more they'll eat, regardless of your efforts to dissuade them. The most you can hope for is that your neighbor's landscaping looks tastier than yours ("Here, want some rose bushes?")

My neighbor had two Bouvier des Flandres dogs and they would chase down and kill deer that got into his yard. A lot of dogs will just bark at and scare off deer. Pyreneese are more night-owl dogs but also loud barkers. Basenji are dogs that can't bark. If you want to try the dog-deterrent route, you'd just need a good enough fence to keep the dog in the yard. The neighbor said his Bouviers made themselves into a bloody mess when they did that - he tried hard to discourage them. But they were outdoor/house dogs and I guess there was an incident where the dogs' long fur was saturated in deer blood and they got in the house...

Dogs add a whole other dimension to landscape problems, tho, since they pick places to dig, sleep, etc. and un-do your hard work planting, mulching. Not as bad as chickens, tho. I have to tie or pen my heeler when I plant or he'll follow me and pull up whatever I just put in. Hopefully he'll outgrow that.
 
laura sharpe
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Just for a bit of fun I bought mousetraps and fly swatters. I am making deer whappers with them....i need to trade mark that huh. When the deer population bounces back I think i will have fun scaring them off with fly swatters. I have hunting camera I can set up to take pictures.

Only reason I have not used these is because the deer disappeared...do they read minds?
 
Renate Howard
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Please post videos when you get that on film!!! I'd love to see it!
 
Rebecca Norman
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food preservation greening the desert solar trees
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People swear this bone tar repels deer

http://www.permies.com/t/1805//Sepp-Holzer-recipe-animals-trees
 
Luke Vaillancourt
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Mr. Sheprard is always so enlightening! thank you!
 
John Thames
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Location: Montana
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I'm putting in a food forest/break wind forest this month and have a large mulley (mule deer) population that travels through my property and as much as love seeing them and the fawns in the morning I want them to stay the heck away from new trees. At least for the establishment phase. Anyway, I've heard about this product Plantskydd that is is supposed to be the best organic deer repellent out there. It's basically just bloodmeal and reminds a lot about what I've read about Sepp's bone sauce. Has anyone had any experience with this or any opinions on its use within permaculture?
 
Alder Burns
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I've had very good control with baited electric fence, not just for deer but just about any critter. Hang a single wire at nose height of the critter in question, and then put little tags of aluminum foil on the wire every few feet. Swab something attractive to the animal in question on the tags, facing out (peanut butter is the default, being attractive to everyone, herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore). Said animal will smell this, lick or bite on it and get a really good shock. he won't be back for months. I have used the same technique to get goats to respect single-wire fences, too.
The problem here in CA is the intense fire danger through the summer eliminates this option. I've tried motion sensitive sprinklers, which offer another month or two of control, but eventually the deer get so desperate they don't care (or they enjoy!) getting wet. By the time this stage comes even urine spray won't work, and they will munch tomatoes and other normally resistant things. I've learned the hard way to keep the most important food annuals that are growing under irrigation late in the summer close to the house. The trees are all fenced, and eventually will get up over the vulnerable height. This, and grasshoppers (which also work near the ground), have made me a minimalist fruit tree pruner. I might have to get out a ladder to pick apricots, but at least I will have a chance at some!
 
John Thames
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Location: Montana
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I was also thinking about hot wire too but in total I'll have about 1,000 linear feet to cover and would like to use that as a last resort. Though if I do have to go that route the aluminum foil and peanutbutter is a great idea! But this blood meal if it repels deer seems like it would also act as a possible fertilize?
 
Tim Malacarne
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Location: South central Illinois, USA
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In southcentral Illinois, we like to winter-over spinach... The deer like to eat it. Lately, the hard-core deer hunters aren't seeing many deer. The spinach grows unmolested. The hunters claim that over-permitting and the bobcats are thinning the herd too much. In fact, we're having a fellow from the DNR to a conservation club meeting next month, to talk about the bobcats and the lack of deer. Speaking for me and my spinach, we're happy as clams!
 
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