Misty cool morning on Leafhopper Farm. The dew is thick again on the clover, bright sun pours across the landscape, revealing three familiar shapes near the pond.
A Blacktail doe Odocoileus hemionus columbianus and her two yearlings are grazing in the rich pasture. One of the offspring is a young spike buck, and I hope to harvest him in the coming season. These deer are habituated to the area, browsing through the land without a care, even after I’ve chased them off multiple times and shot the .22 at their feet. They don’t care. It’s typical behavior of suburban deer constantly moving around human habitat.
Deer can destroy your carefully planted landscape, and carry diseases into your domestic animals on the land. I lost a young goat a few years ago to parasites picked up from our deer population. That was a hard lesson. My heart goes out to the wildlife in this area. Their habitat is quickly being gobbled up by human encroachment. In Duvall, over the past ten years, there has been an explosion of development along the hillsides of The Central Cascades, pushing resident animals like the deer out of their forest home ranges and into our highly managed yardscapes.
Leafhopper Farm is working to allow space for the deer to brows through without harming the vulnerable species of young trees and other native plants we’re trying to reestablish to mimic a more natural habitat. Once the plants are established, they can fend off the deer and invite a little browsing. That’s the hope. One day, we might even encourage the elk back up here, but that’s a far fetched dream in my lifetime, but I can at least set the intention.
So, how do I keep the deer from messing up my young plants? Bird netting, hedges, and other barriers to keep out the ungulates. The Chestnuts Castanea are growing up fast in the back pasture, thanks to stacked dead brush around the young tree which hinder deer from getting in close. Deer are lazy by nature, conserving energy when and where they can. If you can create barriers, they won’t push too hard to get in. On my kitchen garden, a strand of fishing line runs the top of the low fence. When a deer investigates the area, their sensitive nose hits the nearly invisible barrier. This confuses the deer and makes them wary of entering the space.
Creating a narrow space around your plants is also a good way to discourage deer. These graceful animals can jump high to get over a fence, but they won’t jump into a space they can’t get out of easily. In the hedge corridor below, there is a narrow strip of fenced space which a deer would not be able to get out of easily once they jump in (I hope). Time will tell!
Keeping deer out of your yard is a lot of work, but smart systems will pay off in the long run. I plan to create deer lanes, encouraging a brows line around the property to deflect the deer away from my veggie gardens and young tree plantings. Next year, I plan to have a young K9 in training to keep out unwanted guests like the deer and coyotes. My old pup Indo used to be great at keeping deer out of the zone 1 garden areas. I look forward to training up another dog to help me in keeping the boundaries strong.
Leafhopper Farm is improving other parts of the land as habitat for wildlife, like these deer. Down by Weiss Creek, we’re putting in a large stream buffer and planting it with native vegetation for our deer friends. The hope is this lush space will entice the Blacktail away from our gardens and back into a stable habitat of their own.