What measures can I take to humanely exclude or deter deer from my property?
What Measures Can I Take on my Property to Reduce Deer Damage?
Destruction of landscaping and damage to private property by white-tailed deer has become widespread throughout Fairfax County. Exploring humane long-term exclusion and repellency options should be the first step towards resolving most wildlife conflicts on private property. No single approach is completely effective and results will vary, especially in areas with high density herds.
Fencing or other barriers can be highly effective at reducing site-specific damage to landscaping and ornamental plants that are vulnerable to deer depredation. A physical barrier, such as an 8-10 foot high fence, is often recommended to restrict property access by deer in areas where they are not desired. However, local ordinances often prohibit fencing of this height. Alternate fencing designs have also shown variable levels of success (e.g., electric, woven wire fences, opaque fences, or dual-strand fences). Applicability of fencing for deer exclusion may vary depending on the cost of installation, maintenance and property aesthetics. Drape deer netting may also be used to prevent deer foraging on vulnerable plants. Additional information on fencing and exclusion techniques can be found in “Managing White-tailed Deer in Suburban Environments: A Technical Guide” (DeNicola et al. 2000).
Not all homeowners' associations in Fairfax allow fences and residents should be aware of local ordinances prior to construction of deer fencing. In Fairfax County, all fences and walls, including deer fences, must comply with Article 10-104 of the Zoning Ordinance, which regulates their location and height. More information about fencing regulations in Fairfax County can be found at: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/code/sites/code/files/assets/documents/pdf/fences-walls.pdf
A variety of odor or taste-based chemical products and mechanical (noise or visual alarm) devices have been tested to repel deer from properties where they have potential to cause damage. Odor and taste-based repellents work by reducing the attractiveness and palatability of treated plants.Repellents are not effective in all situations and results will vary based on deer densities, feeding pressures, and availability of alternate forage. Repellents can be costly to apply and may require frequent reapplication to be effective.Additional information on repellency techniques can be found in “Managing White-tailed Deer in Suburban Environments: A Technical Guide” (DeNicola et al. 2000).
Planting Less-Palatable Vegetation
Although deer are generalist foragers, they do have clear preferences in the plants they choose to feed upon. Selecting less-palatable plants or those that have strong aromas may discourage browsing to ornamental plants and landscaping. There is no such thing as a completely deer-proof plant and most plants are susceptible to deer damage in areas with high deer densities that exhibit greater feeding pressure.
The following links provide lists of plantings that may aid in deterring deer damage to private properties:
For information on managing wildlife interactions and resolving human-wildlife conflicts, the Virginia Wildlife Conflict Helpline is available toll-free at (855) 571-9003, 8:00AM-4:30PM, Monday through Friday. This helpline is a collaborative effort between the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Wildlife Services.