Thursday, June 18, 2009 2:34 PM

Repelling Deer: Do Deterrents Work?

There are several products out there that claim to repel deer and preserve the lushness of your gardens. What are they? There are basically three main categories: A smelly emulsion that you spray on your plants; water sprayer systems, usually motion detecting; and electronic/electric devices. Let's take a look at each and see how well they work.

Both Deer Out and Deer Off claim to last up to four months after the initial spraying under "normal conditions", whatever that is. The fact is, according to a neighbor and my sister-in-law, these products need to be re-applied after every rain. This can get expensive, as a quart of Deer Off concentrate costs $45! The main ingredients in this product are putrescent egg solids (mmmm), capsaicin (hot pepper) and garlic. Almost seems like you could whip some up in your own kitchen, doesn't it? My neighbor also warned that this product tends to clog up your spray nozzle with putrified egg. Sounds like fun! He claims it does work, though. It's really only useful to protect very precious plantings, not the whole yard, so if you want to (try to) keep deer off your property entirely, you should probably try something else.

Next up is the Spray Away Motion Sprinkler system. When I checked out this product in the Northern Tool catalog and then online, I found that it's not all that expensive ($60) and seems pretty effective against all sorts of pests, including deer, rabbits, squirrels and even our own beloved dogs and cats! It needs to be hooked up to your water supply, of course, and only sprays when motion is detected. However, I can see where using gray water or water from a rain barrel would make this product green as well as effective.

The P3 Electronic Deer Chaser did not get very good reviews. Most users said it had no effect on the deer at all. For $35, you'd probably be better off putting that money into either the sprinkler style deterrent or an electric deer fence.

Lastly, my next door neighbor has used an electric fence to deter deer for several years now, and is very satisfied with the results. He used to use the battery style, but found it to be inconvenient. Now he just plugs it into an outside outlet. His wife's plantings are untouched within the 60' diameter space that is protected by the fence and, though he says the fence is low enough that deer could ostensibly jump over it, they never do. His friend has a solar powered electric fence that he is equally happy with. He couldn't remember the exact cost, but said it wasn't outrageously expensive.

makes Deer Off and the Spray Away; check out consumer ratings of these and various other deterrant products at Amazon.

Remember: If you have deer around and spend time outdoors, beware of ticks! Lyme disease is nasty, nasty--and preventable. Personally, I don't have much faith in repellants you spray on your skin/clothes; the one time I used this type of product, I found a tick on me! When you come in from the great outdoors, strip down and check yourself all over, using a full-length mirror. Better still, have a partner do this (preferably someone who has seen you naked before, though, maybe not...). As long as they haven't attached themselves, you're OK (I'm speaking of the ticks, of course).
Chat later!

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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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