"I don’t think we’ll ever know all there is to know about gardening, and I’m just as glad there will always be some magic about it!"

Barbara Damrosch

 home’s landscaping

Updating your home’s landscaping is a great way to increase the value of your property and create outdoor spaces for relaxing and entertaining. Unique ideas here will make your garden fit for a king

Landscape design is an independent profession and a design and art tradition, practised by landscape designers, combining nature and culture. In contemporary practice, landscape design bridges the space between landscape architecture and garden design.

Deer - Evidence of Intrusion

While deer will become accustomed to living near humans they still will try to stay out of sight when we are out and about in our yards. This means you will need to do a bit of detective work to determine if deer are, in fact, the culprits of your garden and landscaping woes. There are several signs that can alert you to the presence of deer in your yard:

Deer Evidence of Intrusion- Tracks

Deer can range in weight from 100 to 400 pounds and can leave a well defined footprint in soft and/or wet ground. Their hooves leave heart shaped markings such as the one seen below.

Deer Evidence of Intrusion-Vegetative Marks

Due to the physical structure of a deer's snout you may note that the leaves of your fruit trees appear torn rather than cut clean. Unlike you and I, all, but one species of deer lack upper incisors and, consequently, cannot chop food (leaves of your trees and garden vegetables) clean. They must pull at the plants causing the remaining leaf blades to have ragged edges.

Deer Evidence of Intrusion-Scat

Scat, or the excrement left by deer, can also help identify them as pests in your garden. The photos below should help you to identify deer scat in your yard.

Deer Evidence of Intrusion-Buck Rub

Part of the biology of the male deer is the annual shedding of a layer of fine, soft hair like material that covers their antlers. During the year this material contains veins that support the growth of the antlers. When deer begin to rut, enter into mating season, the blood stops flowing and the bucks rub the antlers against trees to remove the now dried covering. This shedding takes place in the late fall or early winter depending on location. The antler covering, called velvet, becomes a definitive irritation to the male deer and causes the bucks to scrape their antlers on the trunks of trees to obtain some relief. The image below shows the effects of this "Buck Rub" on an otherwise healthy Jack Pine tree in Southern Michigan. While the process may not be harmful to larger trees, it can be difficult for younger trees to recover and is a definite sign that deer are passing through your property.

Deer Evidence of Intrusion-Buck Scrapes

While you may only see these signs during mating season (October/November) buck scrapes are a very visible sign of deer activity in your yard. Scrapes are made, it is thought, by bucks advertising their virility to the territory's females. Scrapes are just that: ground that has been scraped clean by the hooves of mature male deer. They are most often found in front of trees and coincide with broken or damaged low hanging branches on the tree.

Deer Evidence of Intrusion-Deer Beds

When a 200 pound animal settles in for the night in one spot they leave a mark! If you have areas on your property or nearby properties that have long grasses and/or are protected on all sides by larger trees and shrubs, keep an eye out for depressions in the vegetation. If you see several together, you can bet deer are close by!

Deer Interesting Facts

Deer are one of the most hunted, loved and irritating animals in North America. Much research has been done because of this. This section highlights some of the more interesting facts about the Cervid family, Deer.

  • Deer have a four (4) chamber stomach and will regurgitate your corn and beans for second go around in their mouth.
  • Deer have very few natural predators in the United States.
  • Native Americans used their hides for clothing and food.
  • Deer breed in the fall and give birth in the spring and early summer.
  • Gestational periods range from 120 to 200 days to only one (1) baby or “fawn”.
  • Mule deer will sometimes have twins and White Tail deer will sometimes have triplets!
  • The fawns walk almost immediately atop four (4) wobbly legs.
  • Deer populations reached their all time low in the 1800’s when unregulated hunting and land clearing wreaked havoc on their habitats.
  • Deer populations have grown and in areas where deer are protected from hunting they become fearless around humans.
  • Deer are good swimmers and runners and can reach speeds of 35 mph.
  • Deer antlers begin to grow in the spring and fall off by the start of winter.
  • White Tail deer antlers are one of the fastest growing tissues known to man.
  • Deer antlers have been recorded to grow as fast as ½ inch per day.
  • The velvet that covers the antlers of the deer is a living tissue that supplies blood that allows for the antlers to grow.
  • Deer antlers are very sensitive to touch and can be easily broken.
  • A young male deer is called a button buck.
  • Despite popular belief, the size of a deer rack is not a good indicator of the animal’s age. Adult male’s antlers will reach it largest size at about five (5) to eight (8) years of age.
  • Antler size is based on genetics and nutrition.
  • Female deer do not grow antlers except for Reindeer.
    The occasional trophy-sized mule deer buck may weigh a whopping 450 pounds
  • The largest White Tail deer was taken in Wisconsin on November 1, 2008. The three and one half year old deer weighed in at 200 pounds and had 16 ½ points on its antlers.
  • Deer can fill their stomach in about one (1) or two (2) hours.

Deer - Diet

Deer diet, as with most wild animals is quite varied. They are more often than not browsers, meaning they prefer foods that are 12 inches are taller above ground, but they will graze if needed. They prefer grasses, vines, shrubs, fruits eating all parts of the plant including woody stems. They enjoy plants over animal foods and have quite the appetite. How does this translate to your yard? Deer will eat just about any vegetable in your garden, save for the pungent ones such as garlic and onions, but a truly hungry animal will eat any food. They will eat the leaves off your fruit trees and in the winter the twigs from them, too!

Nutritional value of the foods deer eat is very important to the survival and viability of the species. Deer who do not get the proper nutritional balance will fall prey to diseases quickly.

Deer Diet-Food

As an herbivore, these large mammals eat only plants. In the wild they prefer Osage orange, oaks, sumacs in the south. In the Northeast white cedar, white pine, maples, yellow birch, dogwoods and vibirnum, sumac, aspen, jack pine, oaks, ash, white birch, witch hazel. The best grain crops and grasses include oats, wheat and rye and bluegrass, brome grass and cheat grass. On the smaller side they will partake quite joyfully in alfalfa, bluebells, burnet, cloves, dandelion and wild lettuce, sweet clover and onions.

The leaves and twigs of shrubs preferred by deer include bitterbrush, buckwheat, dogwood, serviceberries’, sagebrush and willows.

Trees including crabapple, apple and chokecherry have leaves and fruits much appreciated by deer, too. Mushrooms are eaten, as well.

In your vegetable garden they enjoy beans, peas, pansies, impatiens, geraniums, and just about everything you can grow.

Deer Diet-Physical Attributes

Deer diet is comprised of a lot of low nutrient foods. To help them make the most of this menu the deer are equipped with a four (4) chambered stomach. Deer are considered ruminant animals or animals that chew their food twice. Basically the process involves the food entering the first stomach where it is softened. The food than is regurgitated up and back into the mouth where it is chewed again. This second generation food is call “cud”. The deer then will swallow its food again which will then enter the second part of the stomach, then the third, followed by forth each of which perform more digested.

With over 40 percent of a deer’s energy coming from food absorbed in its first stomach it is not difficult to correlate overall health of the animals based on the available food supply.

Deer Diet-Seasonal Variances

Food sources available in the fall, winter, and early spring are most critical to deer because they affect body condition, winter survival, and reproduction. During these seasons, deer browse on the leaves, needles, buds, and twig ends of trees and shrubs. During these periods nuts and tree buds become a very important part of the deer diet.

Overall these mammals will enjoy eating acorns, nuts, fruits and green plants in the summer, evergreens and grasses in the fall, and switching over to woody plants in the winter.

Whether or not they visit your yard may actually depend on the seasonal variations of your location. You may find deer more frequent in your landscape if you live in mountainous areas for their normal food supply is buried beneath a deep layer of snow. If you have a regular dry season, deer will be more apt to venture into yards during the dry seasons versus the rainy seasons.

Deer Diet-Benefits and Detriments to Humans and the Ecosystem
The deer diet has many detriments to humans, due for the most part to their ability to eat most any plant in sight. This type of diet can cause harm to backyard gardens and farmers crops.

Deer - Habitat

Natural deer habitats can vary widely across the United States; all species of deer are very much adaptable. According the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, overall, deer thrive best in areas with young forests and brush where they feed on buds, branches, fresh grass, and green leaves that are close to the ground. In an older forest, these resources may not be available. Deer require areas with a great diversity in plant materials and require water sources every mile or so, too.



Mule deer species are thriving in many different forested areas and grasslands in the western United States. They live in open woodlands, range and canyon lands, sagebrush areas and mountains. In mountainous regions Mule deer will winter at lower elevations where the snowfall is less dramatic.

All deer species prefer to be close to areas that will provide cover from predators as well as adequate food supplies. This makes habitats known as edge habitat especially appealing to the animals. Edge habitats are areas where deer can feed on the plants that grow in the fields, farms and gardens while still being able to retreat into the forest when they feel threatened.

Because of their nutritional requirements, including both quantity and quality of food, deer habitat must be conducive to supplying ample amounts of high quality deer food. Experts have even tracked low deer populations to poor habitats.

Deer Habitat-Range

There are 44 species of deer in the world living on most every continent making the overall range of deer on the whole as far reaching as the earth itself. There is even one (1) species that exists only on one (1) island in the Philippines. The table below illustrates the home ranges of several species of deer in the world.

Deer Habitat-ClimateCloser to home deer do not travel more than a few miles from their bedding areas; however, in northern areas deer may travel as much as 30 miles south and be found under the cover of large evergreen trees where snow depths are lessened.

 

Because of their diverse range deer live in a variety of climates. From the deserts of the southwest United States to the river basins in China to the bitter cold areas of northern
Canada deer habitat as it pertains to the climate is quite varied.

The range and climate of the Deer species make most of the places in the earth ideal deer habitat.

Deer Benefits & Detriments to Humans and the Ecosystem

Deer have been known to cause some problems which shouldn’t be surprising given that an animal that is so prevalent in the human landscape. For many of us driving in rural areas and sometimes not so rural areas we have come quite familiar with the deer crossing signs along roadways. Deer and car collisions are quite common and more often than not cause a substantial hit to your pocketbook. In fact damage to cars from these collisions has been estimated to be in the millions each year!

Deer can also assist in spreading disease to both humans and animals. They have been known to transmit and contract hoof and mouth disease from livestock animals which can cost farmers thousands of dollars. The spread of Lyme disease is also helped along by deer and humans living in close quarters.

Further problems are related to Deer often hosting ticks in their fur that carry the disease and may drop one (1) or two (2) off as they pass through your property. Ticks that bite humans can infect them with this very debilitating disease.

Benefits of deer include the economic boost given to states that have a stake in deer hunting. Deer are hunted for both sports and food and bring in a lot of recreation dollars to counties and states with a well managed deer population.

Deer are also an important prey animal for the larger carnivores of the western states including mountain lions.

The shedding of the antlers provides a very important source of calcium for many animals including mice, coyotes, bison and porcupines. But, perhaps the least spoke of benefit is the enjoyment provided to many people who see the animals in the wild. In fact, parks and other natural areas often become sought after spots to watch for wildlife include the large hoofed animal, the Deer.

Deer Behavior

Most deer species live in herds. The size of these herds will vary from three (3) or four (4) to 15 to 20 animals. Male deer are polygamous with the herds normally led by one (1) male with several females that he mates.

Communication within the species is often completed via scents. Deer have glands on their feet, legs and faces. Deer will rub these glands on vegetation to mark their territory and to let females know that they are ready for mating.

Deer breed in the fall and give birth in the spring and early summer. Gestational periods range from 120 to 200 days to only one (1) baby or “fawn”. The fawns walk almost immediately atop four (4) wobbly legs.

Deer Physical Appearance

The many varieties of deer range in size from less than 100 pounds for some White Tail species to upwards of 200 pounds for some male Mule Deer. Their coloring is most predictable with nearly all varieties displaying a mottled reddish, brown fur color in summer and a grey to bluish grey coloring in the winter.

The most striking physical feature of any deer is their antlers. These antlers, found only on Males, are made of bone and found on all but two (2) varieties of the animal. Antlers are covered with a layer of skin, called velvet, which eventually dies and is rubbed off by the animal during mating season. This rubbing may be one of your landscape issues as the deer will use trees and shrubs to help scrape the velvet from the antlers. Antlers themselves begin growing in the spring, are used during mating season for fighting and scent marking, and then actually fall off only to begin growing again the following winter. There are some species of deer that do not have antlers, and in these species you will find enlarged upper teeth. These include Musk Deer and Chinese River Deer species.

Antlers vary in size and structure between the species as well. Overall, Mule deer have thicker antlers than White Tail deer. The points or tines of the White Tail deer antlers derive from the two (2) main beams. Mule deer have what are known as bifurcated antlers. Where the two (2) main beams branch into two (2) smaller beams, these then branch into two (2) even smaller beams.

The points on the antlers increase in number through about the sixth year of life for the bucks.

Deer Natural History

Deer are native to just about every corner of the world. As such there are many different species; 44 in all. Of the 44 species there are several more subspecies. Many of these have grown to become very specialized for their environment with some even existing only on islands. This page will focus mainly on the species that are most common in North America including the White Tail and Mule Deer species.

White Tail Deer

Scientific Name: Odocoileus virginianus
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervid
Genus: Odocoileus
Species: Virginianus

Deer - Introduction

Deer are very frequent visitors to yards and gardens wherever they live. In the United States there are only two (2) native species with several subspecies and a few introduced varieties as well. All of which are well known for snacking on homeowner gardens and landscaping. The most common species east of the Rocky Mountains is the White Tail Deer with the Mule Deer species taking up residence in the western states and Canada. Deer can become very familiar with humans and will not hesitate to make your yard a regular stop for feeding quickly destroying vegetable gardens and damaging trees and shrubs beyond recovery.

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