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Dakota Gardener: Protecting Trees From Bambi
North Dakota Ag Connection - 11/30/2023

Deer are very active now. They are moving around, scraping bark and munching on trees in our landscapes and orchards.

My epic battle versus Bambi was in a college orchard in Bismarck.

Two days after planting 60 trees, our team of gardeners visited the orchard to give the trees a drink of water.

It was shocking. Every tree was pruned by hungry deer. Everyone got mad—but not me.

I don’t get mad. I get even. When a critter invades my territory, I seek swift justice!

The most effective way to stop deer and any other harmful wildlife is to exterminate it, if and when it is legal. Be sure to follow all state and local regulations. Hunting of deer in North Dakota can only be done within legal hunting seasons.

No matter the season, hunting deer on a college campus was not going to happen.

The second-best way to stop harmful wildlife is to exclude it. Put up a physical barrier to prevent the animal from damaging the plants.

White tree guards that wrap around trunks may help to protect young trees from wildlife. Rings of chicken-wire fencing placed around individual trees can also help, but this isn’t practical in a large orchard.

In the case of deer, an 8-foot-high electrified fence is the recommended barrier. Installing an electrified fence on a college campus was not a good idea.

That brings us to the least reliable solution: repellents.

No repellent will stop a starving deer, but we can reduce damage by using the most repulsive products.

Research studies show that repellents that induce fear in deer and generate a sulfurous odor are most effective. Such products often contain rotting eggs, garlic and assorted herbs. Deer readily sense this odor and then fear a predator is nearby. These products include Liquid Fence, Deer Out and Bobbex Deer Repellent.

The most effective repellents are sprayed directly on the plants to be protected. Sprays applied on the ground along the perimeter of trees are less effective. Always follow the directions on the label.

In this college orchard, I sprayed Liquid Fence on the branches every month from fall through winter. The chemical smelled terrible while spraying.


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