Monday, April 27 at 12 Noon ET
Deer Heaven: How the Animals Are Flourishing in Suburbia
Monday, April 27, 2009; 12:00 PM
As the Washington-area's deer population explodes, wildlife experts wonder: Is suburbia creating a whole new kind of animal? In The Washington Post Magazine's cover story, "Deer Heaven," Post Magazine staff writer Liza Mundy explored how the growing number of deer in populated areas is affecting residents. She was online with Kevin Sullivan, a mid-Atlantic director for the U.S Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services, on Monday, April 27 to take questions and comments. A transcript is below.
Kevin Sullivan: My name is Kevin Sullivan and I am the State Director for USDA Wildlife Services for MD/DE/DC. Our mission is to assist people that have problems with wildlife causing a threat or damage to human health and safety, wildlife, property, or agriculture.
Liza Mundy: Hello everybody and thanks so much for writing in. I also want to thank Kevin Sullivan, an official with the USDA's Wildlife Services, who has kindly agreed to participate in the chat and is extremely positioned to answer your auestions about deer management. Thanks, Kevin, and now we'll both get started responding to questions.
Alexandria, VA: What can you do to control/eradicate the ticks on deer that carry Lyme Disease?
Kevin Sullivan: There is good information on the MD DNR website (listed in the article) that gives information about 4 poster devices that treat deer for ticks.
Chantilly, VA: We back up to Rocky Run stream valley/Ellanor Lawrence Park in Chantilly and have herds of deer in our backyard regularly (the most I've counted at one time was 17), but never a buck (antlered out at least). Until I raised the bird feeder (5' pole from a 4' pole), they'd clean it out in a day. They'd also trim our hostas and roses as often as they could. I tried everything to get them to stop (short of fencing the yard).
Here's what won't work at keeping deer away: human hair, urine, great danes, English mastiffs (we have one of each on either side of us -- the deer know their limits through their yards), electric plant guards, banging on pots and pans, a dinner party on the deck.
The only thing I've found that does work is Liquid Fence. Well, at least it will keep them from eating the roses and hostas and whatever else you spray it on. The only downfall is that it makes eau de skunk smell wonderful (until it's dry anyway).
I wonder if allowing a bowhunter to set up shop in our bathroom (2nd floor overlooking the backyard) would teach the deer to stay away. Hmmmmmmm...let me check on the FFX County regs on that.
Liza Mundy: Hi and thanks for your comments. I was told by a number of natural resources experts that certain methods may work for some homeowners and not for others; and that one method may work for a while, and then stop working! You cover a lot of possibilities in your message. I am told that it's also good to have an "alternative food source"--that is to say, a neighbor who is not taking preventative methods! As for bowhunters, I don't think they're permitted to work out of bathrooms. Good luck.
Vienna, VA: The article says that "an area's carrying capacity--the point at which the deer population is in balance with the habitat that sustains it -- is, at most, 20 deer per square mile." (I'm assuming that's a square mile of woodland, not of streets and parking lots). Then it goes on to say "In parts of the metro area, there may be as many as 200 deer per square mile; at one point, Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville had an estimated 400 per square mile."
So, something's amiss here. If the 20/sq.mile number is right then I can imagine it getting to 60 or 80 before they move to greener pastures, but at 200+ wouldn't you end up with dozens of dead and/or famished, deer? How can both numbers be right?
Also, predators are just as adaptable as prey. Which ones (apart from humans, who seem unreliable at the job) are most likely to take advantage of this surfeit of deer? I've heard that coyotes are moving eastward. Are they becoming predators to deer?
Kevin Sullivan: Deer at 200 per/sq mile can survive but destroy the natural environment,destroy native vegitation and then move to ornamentals in yards. 20 deer per/sq mile is the target to bring things in balance.
Silver Spring, MD: Thank you for an excellent article! Now, why don't you tackle the "carrying capacity" of the same geographic area to handle humans? Planners and developers holler "smart growth" constantly, as though plopping down a rail stop magically increases the number of people who can live in a space. Meanwhile, green space is shrinking and we are in danger of losing small-scale, tree-filled neighborhoods.
Liza Mundy: Good point; I think human carrying capacity is the subject of another article, or maybe ten. Certainly, it's this merging of human habitat and deer habitat--in ex-urbs that used to be rural terrain--that seems to be driving the most inter-species conflict.
Vienna, Va: How do I minimize the risk that deer ticks will bite my kids, if I live in a heavily wooded area? Is there a spray I can put on my yard perimeter to keep deer away or to kill the ticks?
Kevin Sullivan: There are good comerical insectidal sprays at local hardware or department stores. Also insect repellant for people is avaiable.
Clifton, VA: We need to take whatever means are necessary to reduce the deer population levels down to 1980 levels in fairfax County. Managed hunts, birth control and reintroducing predators should all be on the table. Bambi and his buds must die. Nuclear weapons should not be ruled out. My oldest collie is recovering from Lyme disease and this cost me about $300 and I am sure my youngest collie will get Lyme too despite vaccines and tick preventive. Wolfs have never attacked humans in North America so lets introduce the wolf back into our suburbs and if necessary the mountain lion too. If small dogs, cats and children disappear its the price we must pay. I pay 45 more for dog license if its goes to Bambi eradication. And lets not forget we are all paying increased auto insurance payments because of bambi, Bambi must die!
Liza Mundy: I can't quite tell if this is satire or not. Perhaps other readers would like to write in and venture a guess.
Frederick, MD: Several years ago I asked a MD DNR biologist about the potential for coyotes to start effecting deer numbers and behavior. He laughed and said that would never happen.
But now we have more coyotes-- how do the coyotes interact with deer? Do they take fawns?
Kevin Sullivan: coyotes do prey on some fawns but not at a rate that would control populations. They do not appear to be a significant predator on healthy adult deer.
Kevin Sullivan: coyotes do prey on some fawns but not at a rate that would control populations. They do not appear to be a significant predator on healthy adult deer.
Buke, Va.: What is the maximum height under a split rail fence which a typical deer might be able to "crawl" to gain access to our vegetable garden?
Kevin Sullivan: deer can go under or over a split rail fence. Any opening biger than a baseball cap a deer can get under. Fence to the ground and up to 8 feet is the only deer proof fence
Olney, Md.: Hi Kevin. Thanks so much for this timely chat, especially with the warmer weather and planting season starting. I have really, really tried to co-exist with the large deer population in Montgomery CO. I see at least daily the herd of two adult females and at least 4 to 5 smaller ones, as they make their way along the wooded path in back of my house. But I still can't understand why they would attack the backyard birdfeeder. What possible nourish can they get from bird seed? Also they were't suppose to attack my Nellie Stevens holly, but they did.
I've purchased plenty of deer proof plastic netting and have blocked off various areas of my shade garden, but this distracts from the beauty of the landscape. Any thoughts or suggestions would be very much appreciated. The old remedies don't seem to work, so any thing else you could offer would be great.
Kevin Sullivan: seems you are doing the best you can. Exclusion is the only thing that will keep deer out. Your right its not pretty to the eye. Deer at these elvated numbers will eat lots of plants they do not normally eat. Best of luck
Silver Spring, MD: Did you talk with any animal welfare organizations while researching this story? I saw no mention of groups like the Humane Society of the US which provides nonlethal strategies to communities and homeowners.
Liza Mundy: In my research I did consult the viewpoint of human organizations; I also called the Humane Society but my message must not have reached the right person because it was not returned. (An oversight, I'm sure.) But the viewpoint of the Humane Society was reflected in much of the research I did, and in the section on contraceptives I mention that animal welfare organizations place a lot of hope in the development of a contraceptive that really works. I should also mention that all of the wildlife biologists who were so helpful with the research on this piece are of course extremely concerned about the welfare of deer. That's why they became wildlife biologists. As one person described it to me, though, increasingly biologists and natural resource specialists are looking at the entire ecosystem and the relationship between deer and their habitat. They are tasked with protecting both. It's a real challenge.
Ashburn, VA: Is there any indication that we might see some resurgance in predator animal populations as well - for example, wolves and bears.
Kevin Sullivan: wolves are not in the area and this DC metro area would not be suitable habitat. Coyotes and bear populations are on the rise and will prey on some fawns but not have a significant effect on urban deer populations
Washington D.C.: I think that Clifton's feelings are rooted in the frustrations and helplessness one gets from being overrun by these creatures. As citizens, we can do nothing to control them, but they affect our quality of life, ability to use one's own yard, and put our families and pets at risk. I don't think that wolves are the answer to controlling deer herds, but fences, sprays, etc have proved to be ineffective.
Liza Mundy: Ok, good answer, thanks. You have well-represented Clifton's viewpoint, I think.
Ellicott City, MD: What's the best way to deter deer from your property to prevent them from eating your trees, shrubs, etc.
Kevin Sullivan: I would refer you to the Maryland DNR website posted in the article, they have outstanding suggestions on fencing, repellents and plantings.
Northern Virginia: When I visited Mount St. Helens, the formerly moon-like lava fields had gradually turned to soil and kind of a meadow type plant life. The park rangers told us that originally, everyone expected the land to go back to forest and had even planted saplings in this hope. But the wandering deer loved the new meadow environment and no sapling stood a chance. My reaction was: sounds great! The deer have engineered the environment that works for them, the meadow wildflowers are beautiful, and what's wrong with that?
I have the same reaction here. The deer have adapted to suburbia. What's wrong with letting the rest of the local ecology adapt to having lots of deer around?
Liza Mundy: Well, because eventually the deer will eat themselves out of house and home, and transform the landscape in ways that will make it difficult for other wildlife, such as songbirds and small mammals that require cover, to survive. I think that in many jurisdictions, homeowners are perfectly prepared to live with a few deer; I get a regular visitor to my yard in the summer, with the result that certain daylilies rarely flower, and I don't mind at all though I'd love to get a glimpse of the visitor. I think man people feel this way, but at a certain point the natural balance is disrupted and it's not good for anybody, including the deer.
Clifton, VA: Sorry not satire. I have lieved in Fairfax County since 1972. From 1972 to 2000 I saw maybe 8 deer total but since 2000 I have seen more than 1000 were I live.
There are more deer in Fairfax County now then in 1740.
Coyotes are already here but they aren't big enough to go after healthy deer. Wolves are and they get rid of annoying small dogs and roaming cats.
Liza Mundy: Yep, thanks for the clarification.
Fredericskburg, Va.: Deer numbers have really grown in our area within the subdivisions. Will city hunting regulations and seasons change? Would suburb hunting drop numbers enough to help?
Kevin Sullivan: Many suburban areas have change the safety zones and added sunday hunting to help reduce the local deer populations. In MD it seems to be working.
Charlottesville: I have a pair of peeves: Deer + Developers who clear-cut land and then let it lie vacant while they build on a corner here, a spot there, or not at all because of the economy. Meanwhile, the adjacent areas receive the deer population who have been evacuated. Our neighborhood has seen a huge increase in deer because of 2 such developments. Our deer are practically tame - they will stamp their feet and snort if you get too close, but they won't run until at the last minute.
Liza Mundy: I can see your problem. And what is also exacerbating it, of course, is that the same economic crisis that is causing these developments to halt after groundbreaking is also leading to a decline in local city and county budget cuts nd when officials look for places to cut, "deer management" is certainly one possibility. So it's hard to see how it's going to get better in the short term.
Aspen Hill: Isn't there any good way to poison deer without affecting other animals and people?
Kevin Sullivan: There are no registered toxicants for deer and it is illegal to poison deer. Please refer to your local Wildlife Dept. for more assistance.
Ballston, Va.: Deer can routinely jump over a six-foot, board-on-board fence with no problems. I having herding dogs and there is nothing more impressive then 8 deer coming out the fading light at full speed including big daddy 10pt buck with your collie driving them to you.
Sorry controlled professional hunts must be allowed. Birth control doesn't work! Wolves do.
Deer are costing me money in increased car insurance and medical care for my dogs who have had lyme disease and will get it again.
Liza Mundy: Your points are all well taken, and yes, I'm sure that's quite an image.
Woodbridge: How are the babies expected to survive if the does are always targeted?
Kevin Sullivan: Deer seasons are set so that fawns are not abandoned. Seasons are set so fawns are weened and no longer need care from adult does.
Fredericksburg, Va.: Does providing a food source away from your estate plantings help? DO they ever get full?
Kevin Sullivan: the best method is exlusion followed by chasing deer away by a vaiety of methods. Feeding a lure crop or deer feeder will unfortunately just attract more deer. Regardless of how much you feed, if they are in your yard they will eat what they have access to.
Fairfax County, Virginia: I was really surprised when visiting Australia a few years ago to learn that kangaroos are just the same as our deer. The kangaroos have come into the suburbs (due to drought, I was told) and are just as common a sight and as much of an issue as the deer here. Do you know if those studying what to do about suburban American deer are in touch with those dealing with suburban Australian kangaroos? I wouldn't be surprised if they each had some useful ideas for the other.
Liza Mundy: I don't know the answer to your question about whether deer experts in the U.S. are in touch with kangaroo experts in Australia, but I'll post it in case anybody else knows. It is sort of interesting how, depending on the country, almost any animal--no matter how exotic it may seem to others--can come to be considered a pest by people for whom its presence becomes routine. I remember on a visit I made to Kenya years ago, a local resident who invited me and a friend to dinner was complaining about the giraffes who were overrunning his vegetable garden. I just found that so hard to believe, but to him, it was the most mundane thing in the world.
Washington DC: Clifton has some nerve blaming deer. Why are they at fault? We have the same problem with geese on golf courses. If you build it, THEY WILL COME!!!
Liza Mundy: Yes, this is the crux of the problem.
Laurel, Md.: What changes have occurred to the safety zones?
Kevin Sullivan: You will have to check with your local ordanices and the DNR. But in some areas it has been reduced from 300 yards to 150 yards from a house, if you have permision. Check local laws to be sure.
Laurel: good article...thanks...well balanced
Liza Mundy: Thanks.
Buke, Va.: We had a horribly crippled doe accompanied by her daughter eating birdseed out of our feeders for about a week. I called "Fairfax Animal Rescue League" to find out what they could do about her as she looks so pathetic. According to your article, I shouldn't have worried so much; however, I was told by "the league" that I should try to provide a high protein grain available at Southern States to help her regain the strength she needed to "move on" and away from my perennials, yews, and veggies. What do you think of such a recommendation?
Kevin Sullivan: Deer can find all the necssary nutrition in the wild or your plantings (unfortunately). I would reccommend against feeding deer.
Springfield, Va.: The deer population in this part of Fairfax county has been growing over the past 15-20 years, this has been good and bad. Good for their survival and bad for my flowers. I no longer keep a garden as it was destroyed several times by the deer.
Liza Mundy: I'm sorry that you've given up gardening. I wonder if any of the suggestions that Kevin is making in the chat today will convince you to try again. Were there certain plants that you kept trying that simply kept getting eaten, and did you seek advice from a landscaper or county extension agent? There are a number of lists of non-preferred plants, though it's true, I'm told, that when deer are really hungry they will eat just about anything.
Roanoke, VA: Comment: Wonderful reporting . . . and great reading. (signed) Harold Yeglin (Monika Mundy's step-dad).
Liza Mundy: Thanks, Harold!
Clifton, Va.: I can't legally discharge a firearm for any reason in Fairfax County. Two or three wolfpacks would bring the number of deer down to acceptable levels in my area.
Bambi is only cute in the movies. Scottish deerhounds are of no use because they bring the deer to the hunter.
Liza Mundy: Yes, but wolfpacks would bring other problems of their own, of course. The biologists I spoke with did not think that the reintroduction of major predators was a realistic solution in suburban areas.
Albemarle County: I have been putting out impatiens in pots for years, with no deer damage, but lost them all last year. Should I assume that once the deer have started eating impatiens they'll continue to?
Kevin Sullivan: Deer have very good memories and will likely be back.
Affirmation of my theory: I grew up in the country and seeing a deer was a rare treat. Most of our neighbors had at least one large dog running loose 24/7. Most people had 2 dogs. I never saw a groundhog due to the dogs. Yes dogs will chase and kill small prey.
The general population believe the deer are in our backyards because they have no forests to live in. People need to go into a forest. The tree canopy does not allow much sunlight to filter thru so minimal vegetation grow. We have "stray" deer the same reason we have stray cats yowling at our doors if we feed them. Basically, we feed deer.
I see the only natural solution is that when coyote population grows so large that coyotes will re-emerge as a natural predator. Coyotes will kill many fawns and maybe yearlings. Then we will see coyotes everywhere.
Liza Mundy: I'd make the same answer here--based on my reporting, it's not likely that major predators will be reintroduced in a big way, at least not into suburban areas. But one biologist I spoke with did say that even at current levels, coyotes and other predators may take more fawns than we realize.
Rockville: I've also had some success with Liquid Fence but it will wear off so if you don't spray regularly, you (and your plants) are lost. And it does smell awful so wear old clothes when you make a batch from concentrate.
Liza Mundy: Yes, that's the problem--things wear off. This is true as well of repellants that are put on plants; as the plant grows, the effectiveness of the repellant recedes.
Laurel, Md.: Have the ethics of administration of IC on wildlife been debated in any legislative branches? If yes when and where?
Kevin Sullivan: Contraceptives have been studied for over 20 years and debated at the State and National level. State Wildlife Depts are well aware of the current research and how contraceptives might be used. If differs from State to State as how they will implement or use them at all, best to call your Wildlife Dept.
Washington DC: Maybe we should put saddles on all the deer and then everyone could ride them to work. That would solve all our problems!
Liza Mundy: Yes, there you go. Apparently, though, deer are pretty high-strung, so you may not get where you want to go.
Washington D.C.: Once the NPS discloses its management plan, how long will it take to implement it ... and when(if at all) can neighboring residents hope to see some relief from "browsing" deer?
Kevin Sullivan: Best to call your local NPS or go on line to track progress of their deer management.
Silver Spring, Md.: Liza--are you aware that bow hunting is considered one of the least humane ways of hunting, as often the deer are injured and then flee into the woods to slowly die? Also, are you aware that officials, at least in Montgomery County, who "manage" deer are predominantly hunters and dismiss nonlethal methods as undoable? This is frustrating to citizens, who now are loathe to attend public meetings on the issue, as the meetings are not discussions but more announcements of planned hunts. Kevin--what experience do you have with immunocontraception, and are you a hunter?
Kevin Sullivan: I was the Principle Investigator for the Contraceptive product being considered by EPA. You can find more on the websites in the article.
Washington, D.C.: I have a relative with chronic Lyme Disease. It's no laughing matter and I'm concerned that the explosive deer population is contributing to the increase in cases. Are there sponsored hunts in Maryland? The local governments are not doing enough to keep the deer populations in check.
Liza Mundy: By sponsored hunt I assume you mean managed hunts. Yes, they do have them in many Maryland counties. As I understand it Montgomery County was one of the first local jurisdictions to hold them.
Fairfax, Virginia: I have lived in Fairfax County for over 50 years. There are more deer now in the County than when I was a kid. Hunting was more accepted than it is now to keep the deer population in check. Today there are few large parcels where it is safe to use modern firearms. But hitting deer with your car is even more dangerous. Has the Virginia Department of Game and Island Fisheries conducted risk assessments of expanded use of "primitive weapons" for hunting in settled areas? Traditional patched round ball rifles, as commonly used in Pennsylvania, have greatly reduced danger space, compared to modern in-line muzzleloading rifles often used with sabotted ammunition.
Liza Mundy: I don't know the answer to this, and it's not a suggestion that I've heard spoken about. But maybe someone from Game and Inland Fisheries is reading and will write in.
DC: As a hunter, given the population of deer + the economic issues, why not cull and donate the meat to local homeless shelters? Or even auction it off to restaurants and use the dollars for charitable uses?
Liza Mundy: This is what happens, both with managed hunts and with bowhunters. Hunters keep some for personal use, and much of the rest goes to soup kitchens.
Lewes,DE: When the park service's biologist Mr. Ferebee suggested that fences may be part of the solution put forth by the park service, do you know if that would include funding the construction of fences on private property so that deer could be kept out and prevent them from trespassing onto private property?
Liza Mundy: I don't know; you'll have to inquire when the proposed plan is put up for public debate.
Laurel MD: Are Coyotes, wolves, or any other form of "natural" predator (not that man is not just as natural of a predator) a solution to the deer 'overpopulation' problem in the area? Are they native to Maryland?
Kevin Sullivan: coyotes do prey on fawns but are not a significant predator of adult deer and do not appear to have effects on deer populations in MD/VA/DC area
Kevin Sullivan: coyotes do prey on fawns but are not a significant predator of adult deer and do not appear to have effects on deer populations in MD/VA/DC area
MD's Eastern Shore: One way you urban folks could get rid of the excess deer is by lengthening deer hunting season. Of course, many urbanites would rather Bambi get hit by cars or starve than be shot by a hunter. Right?
Liza Mundy: I don't know whether it's true that urbanites feel this way. Certainly, it's my understanding that many suburban jurisdictions have expanded their hunting seasons. Any urbanites want to weigh in with opinions on hunting? I did get a phone call from a reader opposed to targeted culling of suburban deer populations in some parks, especially deer who for all intents and purposes seemed tame. So there's one opinion.
Laurel Md.: Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. No form of IC has been legalized for use, or so I hear. Is that true? Has ANY public debate occurred, within the legislative branches at federal state or local levels, to consider the use of IC on 'wildlife", for the first time in history of mankind? Should it occur? If debate has occurred where has it happened? What legislation has been passed, if any, that gives authority to use IC?
Kevin Sullivan: Contraceptives are not currently available but are being considered by EPA. The chocie to use or not will be up to the State Wildlife Departments, each State can choose to use or not.
Beltsville, MD: I thought your article yesterday was very well done. I have had some success creating barriers using 3/4 inch PVC pipe cut into 5 foot lengths and attached to small steel posts in the ground. Netting is then hung on the structure. Painted green, they blend in a little and they did keep the deer out all last year. I'm also experimenting with some monofilament line strung on the poles that has promise and doesn't look quite as "tacky" as the netting.
Liza Mundy: Thanks for the suggestions.
Aspen Hill: My 6-foot stockade fence has been deer-proof for 15 years and I was wondering - Is it because that deer can't see through or over it that stops them from jumping over it?
Kevin Sullivan: Not exactly sure but sounds like you have solved your problem hope it continues to work.
Washington, DC: At what point does venison become a more popular food, available in supermarkets and restaurants, simply because it is readily available? That would seem to address two problems at the same time.
Liza Mundy: I've wondered about this as well. Currently, it seems to me that most consumers of venison are diners in high-end restaurants; hunters and their families; and people at soup kitchens who benefit from venison donations. That of course leaves out much of the public. But I'm told--and this should come as no surprise--that venison is on the rise among diners concerned with health as well as sustainable farming. For one thing, venison is much leaner than, say, beef. I am trying to remember whether I've seen it in my local farmer's market--anybody noticed it in theirs?
re: Clifton's Response: As someone who suffers from deer overpopulation, I can tell that Clifton is somewhat serious, although I'm pretty sure the nuclear threat is overkill. The good news is that we DO have coyotes in the area and they will go after fawns if given the chance.
I don't think I'd want to tangle with a wolf or cougar though.
Liza Mundy: Yes to all that.
Clifton, DC: DC Geese dont carry Lyme Disease. A goose or several Geese can't total your car and kill you.
My dogs can handle geese and drive them out of pond effectivley. We can also destroy the eggs. No guns needed but I enjoy using the Benelli and shooting water fowl but alas Fairfax County laws prevents it.
Deer are not cute.
Liza Mundy: I'll post your viewpoint. I have to say, though, that many people find them lovely, even if they find them annoying. Lots of people still excitedly telephone their neighbors when there's a deer in the yard. And of course there are peopel who feed them. But I think everybody agrees that they are beautiful--as one biologist said to me, driving me around to show damage, "there's nothing more beautiful than a herd of deer in a snowy field." Sure you will give them that.
Deer and Birdfeeders: Birdseed is easy grazing for deer. Raise your feeder to at least 5' off the ground. My wife jokes that we're going to come home one day and find the deer have absconded with the feeder -- similar to the way thieves will steal an ATM so as to get at the money in safety -- and we'll find it empty in the woods one day.
After reading this article, maybe she's not far off the mark!
Liza Mundy: Very funny.
Laurel, Md.: "Kevin Sullivan: Contraceptives have been studied for over 20 years and debated at the State and National level."
Are you saying this has occurred in the legislative branches? (as opposed to within agencies like usda/aphis)
Kevin Sullivan: I am not aware if it has been debated at the legislative level or if there is State specific legislation. That you would have to check with the State. I know it has been a heated topic at the state level, some for and some against. Once registered if it does get registered it will then be up to the States to inact legislation or regulations. I belive there are some States that have legistlation that prohibits contraceptives from being used on wildlife, but am unaware of any in MD/VA/DC or DE
Cameron, NC: This story reminds me of one I read a few years ago in the NYT magazine. The author basically compared deer to rodents. I see the problem has not changed. When I lived in the Albany NY area the same problems were cited, deer were all over the place, crossing busy streets at night. Seems like no solution has been found yet. Most of the hunters I knew refused to take does, some mindset about not wanting to reduce the population of deer available to hunt.
Liza Mundy: I did not compare deers to rodents. But all your other points stand.
Washington, D.C.: Can ya at least make their lives a tad easier, make the tags on their ears smaller, so they don't catch them in the branches? You almost can't see the deer for the tags.
Kevin Sullivan: Good suggestion and we will work on this.
Washington DC: If people have to give up gardening, can't let their children play in their yards, can't step out onto their patio without stepping in deer excrement, why will people want to live in the ever-expanding areas that the deer are invading? What will these less-desirable properties be worth? Why have a yard that you can't enjoy?
Liza Mundy: Though there certainly are some communities that suffer from all the issues you outline, I think that in the end is an extreme version of what people are going through. At any rate, it seems to be the economy, not the deer, that has slowed homebuying. And as I've mentioned a number of times, there are also people who consider deer populations an asset.
Gaithersburg: Isn't it a myth that deer are responsible for the spread of ticks and Lyme disease? The ticks live most of their lives in leaf litter and undergrowth not on the deer. They will latch on to any host that comes along. Removing the high grass and leaves removes the tick population.
Kevin Sullivan: Deer are just one host of the tick you are correct. Ticks infected that carry Lyme can attach to many different species
Fredericksburg, VA: Is netting over plants effective? My sister-in-law installed it last week in Georgia, but no read out yet. I'm worried that I'll end up netting a very angry 200-lb deer who'll do more damage to the yard trying to escape than just counting the plant losses.
Kevin Sullivan: Fences are better than netting and deer can get netting caught on their atlers.
Kevin Sullivan: Liza great story and thanks to all that had great questions. If you have additional questions your State Game or Extension offices are a great source of information. If in MD feel free to call a toll free line at 877 463 6497 (DNR and USDA)
Liza Mundy: OK, we seem to have gotten to everybody's questions. Thank you to everyone who wrote in, and again, thank you so much to Kevin Sullivan, who took the time out from his many wildlife management duties to dispense advice today. I'm sure people found them helpful.
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