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Living with Deer



The City of St. Charles has developed some tips to help residents mitigate the presence of the white-tailed deer in residential neighborhoods. Human safety is the top priority of the City, and this plan includes information from experts from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The white-tailed deer is the state mammal of Illinois. Thriving in both north and south America, these beautiful creatures feed on legumes and forage for other plants, including shoots, leaves, and grasses.

Early in the 20th century, deer were nearly hunted to extinction., with experts estimated the whitetail deer population at around 300,000. However, successful conservation efforts have allowed the deer population to flourish, with biologists estimating deer populations stabilizing around 30 million.

Due to these high deer populations, interactions with humans are more frequent. Encounters with deer may increase from October to January during their mating season. Be extra careful when driving during those months as deer-vehicle accidents are more likely. Deer are most active at dusk and dawn, so it is not surprising that most accidents involving deer happen between the hours of 5 to 10 p.m. and 5 to 8 a.m. While all deer-vehicle collisions cannot be prevented, there are steps that drivers can take to avoid an accident.

If you have noticed deer nibbling plants in your yard, consider replacing shrubbery and plantings with deer resistant varieties. You may also want to install covers over window wells to prevent animals from falling into the openings. And be aware that hunting is not allowed within City limits according to Ordinance 9.60.030, and firearms and/or traps are not permitted on Park District property or City property.

Despite its gentle nature and beauty, experts recommend never approaching or feeding deer. Deer are unlikely to attack humans, but male bucks have been known to become aggressive during the mating season, due to elevated levels of testosterone. Deer carry ticks and Lyme disease in their fur, so never pet or touch them.

The City of St. Charles encourages residents to utilize the tips above to prevent accidents associated with deer. The city encourages residents to continue admiring them from a safe distance as we live alongside these majestic creatures in the Fox Valley.

Deer Control Tips

The following tips come from “20 Ways to Keep Deer Out of Your Yard” by Danielle Blundell on This Old House Online.

  1.  Don't over-stock your garden with tasty plants. Springtime finds deer at one of their hungriest states: Does are nursing their fawns, and anxious to gain back weight lost during the winter's freeze, every deer is looking to gorge on high-protein, moisture-rich plants. Think twice about growing large amounts of English ivy, lettuces, beans, peas, hostas, impatiens, and pansies. Fruit trees are prime targets too.
  2. Keep deer-favorite plants close to the house. That way, you can keep tabs on the plant's progress at all times, making sure it doesn't become a meal. As a general rule, deer love to dine on anything that's smooth, tender, and flavorful, including chrysanthemum, clematis, roses, azalea bushes, and various berries.
  3. Plant pungent perennials as a natural barrier. With wildlife biologists' modest estimate of 18 to 24 deer per square mile, and full-grown adults each feeding on 6 to 10 pounds of greenery a day, the best line of defense lies in making your backyard less appetizing than your neighbors. Deer rely heavily on their sense of smell for feeding, so adding patches of strongly scented herbs — from garlic and chives, to mint and lavender — can mask the appealing aroma of nearby annuals.
  4. Plant thorny, hairy, or prickly foliage. When a deer is deciding what to have for dinner, the sense of smell trumps touch. But that doesn't mean deer aren't bothered by certain textures mid-meal. Try incorporating fuzzy lamb's ear, barberries, and cleome near the plants you want to protect — and where deer might find entrance into your garden in the first place. See plants deer dislike for a more comprehensive list.
  5. Make deer-resistant substitutions. Author and Master Gardner, Massingham Hart, suggests trading tulips for daffodils, which tend to top the deer-resistant plant lists. Pick roses that are particularly thorny, including Scotch or rugosa roses. And if you're looking for flowers that'll add a certain color or provide a certain function in your outdoor space, consult this list of deer resistant plants from Rutgers University to see what swaps you can make in your garden.
  6. Out of sight, out of mind. Plant large, sprawling deer repellent varieties such as thick hedges of boxwoods or short needle spruces around the borders of your garden. If deer can't see what's inside, they're less likely to take that leap of faith onto your property.
  7. Cleanliness counts. Trim tall grasses to deter bedding deer. Pick fruits once they're ripe, and discard crops right after harvest.
  8. Create levels. Deer aren't avid climbers so adding terraces or sunken beds can discourage them from coming into the yard. If your property is particularly woodsy and sprawling, consider stacking pallets around your property, which deer are afraid to walk or jump on.
  9. Don't underestimate the power of scare tactics. As neophobes, deer fear new, unfamiliar objects. Though they aren't always attractive, scarecrows, sundials, and other garden ornaments — especially those with movable parts — make deer skittish. Use them in combination with wind chimes or bright lights for added effect.
  10. Fence it in. The most effective method of exclusion is a fence. Whitetails, which tend to plague most suburban gardens, are quite the jumpers. Make sure fences are at least 8-feet high with no more than 6-inch by 6-inch gaps. Electric fences, which can be put up during the peak feeding seasons of early spring and late fall, are another option.
  11. Wrap new plantings. Placing netting over fruit, bulbs, and bushes. Use garden nets, tree protectors, or plastic tree wrap to physically bar deer from feasting on your firs.
  12. Rotating repellents throughout the growing season. The University of Illinois Extension School recommends Havahart's Deer Away Big Game Repellent, a powder that contains a high concentration of smelly egg solids to target sense of smell to keep deer out of your yard. Reapply repellent after rainfall, and use a different formula from time to time to protect plants and prevent deer adaptation. Coverage should start from the ground and extend upward six feet.
  13. Use a lot of homespun repellents to keep deer guessing. Some gardeners swear by hanging fabric softener strips and/or wrapped bars of soap from trees, both of which can confuse a deer's sense of smell. Others point to using hot pepper sprays, garlic and rotten egg mixtures, ammonia-soaked rags, and bags of hair and/or blood meal around the garden for the same reason. As with commercial repellents, the trick is to switch things up, learning by trial and error, for maximum efficiency.
  14. Avoid products that may be poisonous to people and pets. Whether you choose commercial repellents or homemade formulas, you wouldn't want to accidentally harm your family or other wildlife. Always choose humane formulas — never poisons.
  15. String fishing line around prized plants. Relatively cheap and easy when compared to putting up a fence, string a line of monofilament around your beds within the deer feeding zone — ideally two to three feet above ground. Just as deer can't comprehend the concept of glass, this clear, taut barrier also confuses deer, ultimately causing them to flee.
  16. Deer are afraid of dogs. Having a dog as a pet is extremely effective in deer management. No matter their size, their scent and bark are natural deer repellents so make sure the dog tags along while you're gardening or the kids are playing in the yard.
  17. Shine a light on it. Deer don't like bright lights so they'll often wait till nightfall to chow down. Installing a system of motion-sensitive floodlights will literally stop a deer in its tracks, though they do come to realize, over time, that the beam is harmless.
  18. Remember these tips won't work all of the time. Deer are like people. The same thing that deters one won't always deter another, but doubling—or tripling—up on these strategies can only help. Putting a few of these tips into practice, before deer become a problem, is the best way to prevent damage to your vegetation. Think through each of your decisions, however, before acting, as some solutions are pricier than others.
updated Apr 25, 2024