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The old problem of the deer moving into the city. My neighborhood is overrun. So far the best solution I've seen to keep them at bay is fences or hedges. The true permaculture solution would be to simply grow enough that the deer can eat their fill and there's still plenty for you. But that's not tenable when you're working on a suburban lot and with deer population densities 10x what is found in the wild. So, short of fences or hedges, anyone got any ideas?

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    "grow enough that the deer can eat their fill" - wouldn't their population grow to match? – Jay Bazuzi Feb 16 '13 at 22:37
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    I think the most permaculture solution would be "eat the deer". – Jay Bazuzi Feb 16 '13 at 22:38
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  1. Make up a batch of bone sauce and apply it to your tree trunks:

    The first pot is buried in moist soil leaving an inch or two above ground. The second, upper, pot if filled with bones and a screen goes between the two pots. Clay seals the pots. A small fire is burned on top of the pots for about two hours. Then the wood is pulled away and the pots are covered with dirt. Let the pots cool overnight. Carefully clean all of the dirt off so that no dirt ends up in the bone sauce / salve.

  2. Grow plants that deer don't like. They didn't touch my garlic last spring, but they ate everything else... it's rumored that planting garlic around trees might keep them away, I don't know how well this works if there's a lot of feeding pressure.

  3. Grow lots of plants that deer do like as a distraction to keep them from the stuff you want for yourself.
  4. Grow "deer resistant" plants. Elderberries are supposed to tolerate being munched just about to the ground -- the roots will send up new canes.
  5. Get a dog; you'll still need a fence to keep the dog contained, but the requirements for a dog-proof fence are easier to meet than the requirements for a deer-proof fence.

See also questions where this has come up on gardening.SE:

I think the bottom line answer from that last question is this:

You will also find suggestions to use bars of soap, human hair, dogs or getting a hunting licence. These will work for some deer, some of the time but if you want a solution for all of the deer, all of the time you need a fence.

I'm not suburban, but I have a lot of deer pressure, and the only thing that works for me is a fence (and it has to be a good fence). (I haven't tried the bone sauce yet.)

  • With respect to dog fence... you don't know my dog o.O Bloody beast is Houdini. He's a velociraptor in disguise. About the only thing he hasn't figured out how to do yet is open doors, and it's only a matter of time. But great answer! And yeah, there's going to be a lot of duplicated information between the SEs. I suggested a feature in Meta that would help, but I dunno how receptive the SE folks are gonna be to it. It must have come up before by now and since it's not a feature yet I can't imagine it's something they want to implement. Still.. worth throwing out there. – Daniel Bingham Feb 6 '13 at 19:55
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Surely the most natural solution would be for the human population to reduce the deer population by eating them.

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    Or for the deer to reduce the human population by eating them so they can reclaim some more of their former territory. But that seems less likely. – Johnny May 6 '13 at 23:51
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Nature's solution to an overpopulation problem would be predators or disease. Introducing a wolf or two to the area would help cull the herd a little.

I'm less comfortable with the suggestion of spreading a deer-soecific disease, as it has a much higher likelihood of losing control.

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    +1 for looking more deeply in to the ecosystem. – Jay Bazuzi Feb 16 '13 at 22:38
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    Cougars have been re-introduced into our area for precisely this reason. – Zach Dwiel Apr 19 '13 at 1:23
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Toby suggested planting some fast growing non-delicious species around the perimeter, perhaps crabapple. That way, the deer will stick to those instead of eating your food.

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I put up an electric fence. The deer wire is about 3 foot off the ground. I take a piece a tinfoil the size of my hand put a dab of peanut butter on it and fold it over, in half. The deer are attracted to it, by smell, must touch it, get stung, then leave and never come back again. I do not know why it works but it has for me for several years and I see deer in my garden during the winter when the fence is down.

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