Controlling Winter Deer Damage
For many, winter means peaceful days and visions of beautiful, snow-covered landscapes. For others, it’s also the season when hungry deer invade their landscapes looking for food in the form of their trees, shrubs and ornamentals.
There’s no denying that deer are beautiful, graceful animals that can be a joy to look at, but for some homeowners they’re also an incredible nuisance and this year they might be worse than ever. The combination of strong deer birth rates this year and the expected snow totals and cold temperatures mean that deer feeding pressure may be much stronger than last winter. Deer damage in the winter can destroy some of the most significant investments on homeowner’s properties by stripping plants of foliage and buds for next season. These are often plants that are extremely visible around the home, or are used as buffers between properties. some plants may become disfigured for years as a result of this damage, or be lost completely.
Deer diets begin to change around the end of October. Deer will stop eating annual and perennial plants, as well as grass, and begin to focus on acorns and woody plants. Deer rely on acorn mast to supply the bulk of their fall diet, and to prepare for the winter. If the acorn mast is low, it will typically correlate to more deer pressure in the winter. By early to mid-November homeowners will start to see damage on plants like azaleas and taxus. As temperatures drop and snow begins to fall, deer will begin to target almost any evergreen plant or tree that is available. Over the last few years deer have begun eating things that they would not have normally eaten, and deer resistant/deer proof plants have become increasingly more difficult to identify.