Thursday, July 23, 2009

Nature Notes: Deer Wars

Cute, huh? We haven't seen herds of twelve to twenty deer in the yard since hunting season, but the remaining does are busy making up for the losses. Now that they're bigger, the babies are coming out into the open, bouncing around and nibbling things. In fact, they're all over the place.

Click the photo to enlarge it and you'll see three fawns in the pasture, but only one doe. We found a small dead fawn in the corner of the pasture a couple of weeks later, and I suspect it was one of these, probably one that had lost its mother.

Time was, I didn't buy the argument that hunting was necessary to control the number of deer in parks and farm areas. I get it now. They are beautiful and gentle creatures. And no, I couldn't personally shoot them. But having seen firsthand how big the population is and how destructive they are to the woods and farm fields, I understand that somebody has to.

Knowing that deer would be a major problem, the hubby constructed what is essentially a cage around the vegetable garden. The fencing is about seven feet high, and it's electrified along the top and bottom edges. We call it The Corn Fort.

Deer come up to the fence every day and gaze longingly at the lettuce, but none to date have mounted an assault on the battlements. The fawns peek out from behind the barn, watching us weed and hoe, apparently curious about the whole thing. Or maybe they're casing the place for a Mission Impossible operation.

I've been making notes for future gardening projects on what deer eat and what they don't. They didn't touch daffodils or iris this spring. They did eat the new leaves of wild day lilies, but not the flower stalks once they appeared. However, a bed of hybrid day lilies was completely demolished; only a few flowers that leaned into a patch of brambles were spared.

There was a bed of purple coneflowers just under the bay window in the front of the house. Only stubble remains. Deer apparently stood within inches of the windows to browse there. Interestingly enough, they did not touch the hostas next to them, though those are supposed to be one of their favorite foods. Peonies were not eaten, either. They stripped some bark off the pussy willow in late winter, and they nipped off all the new shoots on our gnarly little apple tree.

Deer tend not to eat non-native species of wild plants, which makes sense I suppose. Unfortunately, that just helps the foreign invaders take over in wild areas. They contribute to the almost total lack of acorns in the woods, and I'll be out there burying as many of those as I can find, to help renew the stands of oak.

I love the deer. It lifts my heart to see them, and it saddens me to think of any of them dying. But I understand now that their numbers must be contained, for their own good and for the health of the environment.

Click here to see more Nature Notes.


Carver said...

This was a very thoughtful post. The corn fort sounds like a good idea. Love the shots of the beautiful deer.

NicoleB said...

Now that you put it that way, it malkes sense.
But do they have to hunt where I am at? And leave bones and legs and whatnot behind? Yuck, nasty ....*censored*....

But hey, mission impossible will be when they start digging to get underneath your fence ;)

The doe shots are so cute :D!

Celeste said...

Great thought provoking post, it is always hard to advocate the destruction of other living things but sometimes it is necessary to maintain the biodiversity of an area.

RJ Flamingo said...

Hmmm... Intellectually, I understand exactly what you mean. Emotionally, well, it's Bambi. I know! I know!

Still, there are organic repellents that are pretty effective in keeping the deer away from attractive edibles... Good post.

Carletta said...

Hi Vicki,
It's the same in my yard. So far one fawn seems to be a resident.
We put a chain link around our whole garden which is working well. As far as flowering plants our deer tend to change tastes or it's ramdom sometimes.They do love my Rose of Sharon bushes. I only have blooms at the tops!
Loved the post! Nature at its best.

Sally said...

It's very true. Last week we watched a hawk kill fledgling robins near our performance space. I had to explain to people that if the robin population dropped dramatically, then the hawk population would readjust, probably through hawk starvation, and then there would be more baby robins for a while. It's hard to know, but it's also the way the world works. Balance isn't a stagnant thing, it's something that is constantly moving and adjusting. And we're a part of that balance.

At least you've figured out that your native plants should be fine. And you've created a seemingly deer-proof garden space.

MyMaracas said...

Thanks, Carver. The fort has proven to be deer-proof. Whether the raccoons will get in remains to be seen.

Nicole, I half expect the little guys to find a way. And I agree, there's no excuse for hunters leaving a gory mess.

MyMaracas said...

Celeste, it is a hard realization to come to, but that's the bottom line. Without any of their natural predators - mountain lions, wolves, bears - the deer are doing a lot of damage to the rest of the species.

MyMaracas said...

RJ, I know. When I watch the fawns play, I can just hear that little Bambi voice. And who really wants to be the guy who shot Bambi's mother?

I haven't tried commercial repellents. Soap has had no effect whatsoever.

MyMaracas said...

Carletta, I'm glad your fence is working. Our deer can hop over the 4-foot pasture fence from a dead stand-still, no sweat. I was hoping to start an herb farm in there, but higher fencing would be too expensive.

MyMaracas said...

Sally, that must have been difficult to watch. I'm sure I would have been out there trying to save the robins, even though all hawks are protected species.

I think it's our instinct to defend the weak and helpless in any conflict, though it isn't always the best course of action.

Rambling Woods said...

Love the corn prison..Ummmm..fort I mean..LOL...I do understand the need for hunting as we live in an area with many car vrs deer incidents, but I couldn't kill one. I too am learning what they like and don't like. They haven't bothered my coneflower but it's in the front of the house and there in plenty to eat in out back. Great post..sorry I am late. Got my NN week's confused...

~ Lor said...

You live in such a beautiful place and your pictures are gorgeous as always