Friday, September 28, 2012

Roses and Deer

I live on the edge of a wetland in Edina, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis.  The back of my property, behind my garden and pond, is in the watershed of Nine Mile Creek, which, true to its name, runs for nine miles until it reaches the Minnesota River Valley, which ultimately joins the Mississippi, several miles further along.  To say that we have wildlife in our area is an understatement.  I am never surprised with what comes through my yard and garden.  I don't just see an occasional deer; I see herds of them!  We also see coyote and two of my neighbors encountered a cougar a couple of years ago.  No bears yet, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if one showed up in my rose garden.

So here's what I saw yesterday afternoon, in broad daylight:


This young buck is eating my Morden Centennials with the sun shining on his flank!  He's not supposed to be around at that time of day!  So what gives?

As you can see, I got pretty close to him with my iPhone and he didn't even look up until I got a little closer:


The look says it all.   "Yes, what can I do for you?  I'm eating my lunch"!  Note the two antler buds on his  head.  He's a two pointer!

So... I tried to get a little closer yet and this is what happened:


He jumped over the garden wall and took off into the wetland with his family; there were actually three of them watching all of this!  Don't be fooled by that nicely mowed lawn; it turns into a creek when we get a good rainfall.  The deer are really in their natural element.

So, how do I grow roses in this environment?  It would normally be a very big challenge; perhaps impossible without extraordinary measures.  But actually I really have their number, because they have a big weakness: They love peanut butter more than they do roses! 

And that is the fundamental idea behind the "Minnesota Deer Trick".  It consists of a modular electric fence powered by a standard livestock fence-controller and a 12-volt battery.  On that fence I hang strips of aluminum foil smeared with peanut butter.  The fence alone will not deter the deer.  I have seen them jump over it or crawl under it when it's not turned on (like yesterday afternoon).  However, they can't resist a lick of the peanut butter bait on the electrified aluminum strips, when the fence is up and running.  Because the fence is only connected up, electrified and baited from dusk to dawn (their usual time for garden foraging), I hardly ever see them make contact, but I know they do because I have no deer damage, as long as the fence is baited and turned on every evening.  I only saw it happen once in the very early morning, several years ago, and I have never seen a deer jump so high or run so fast.

Deer are xenophobic.  Once they have experienced a shock on their tongue or nose they go away and stay away.  However, this has to happen to every deer in every herd that passes through my yard and that means I have to be consistent about putting up and baiting the fence every night.  Yesterday afternoon when I took the pictures above, I immediately realized that I had a new group of deer in my garden, because those that have been shocked don't come back, as long as I am consistent with the fence.  They're still around in large numbers, but they give my garden a wide berth as they forage in my neighbors' yards.  So, last night I freshened up my peanut butter strips and turned on the fence a little bit early, because I knew they would be back.  The result?  No further damage last night, as expected.  However, I did find a pile of deer excrement very close to one of the electrified peanut butter baits.  Guess it scared the "you know what" out of that little two-pointer!

I'll write another blog soon, detailing a "how to" for the "Minnesota Deer Trick", including where to get an electric fence controller (farm store) and how my fence is constructed (modularly to make it easy to put up and take down).

Bottom line:  The "Minnesota Deer Trick" works. 

As always, let me know if you have any questions or observations.  Send an e-mail to
jack@falkerinvestments.com .



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