Deer Proof Fencing

As a 30-plus year resident of Palisades, I’ve seen dramatic changes in the landscaping in our area. Where once elaborate, photogenic, and unfenced gardens flourished, many homeowners’ yards are now surrounded by high deer fences.

Rhonda Massingham Hart, in her revised book on Deerproofing Your Yard and Garden, suggests that it is best to implement deer repellant measures before you have a problem. Train deer to avoid your property first, before they find your plants, or even before you plant. Deer are intelligent and check all their food sources regularly, particularly at night while home-owners are asleep. It’s their job, and they are at it 24 hours a day.

Meanwhile, people want to protect their beautiful plants, and some are anxious about new strains of Lyme disease (and even Covid) that may be spreading in deer herds. For those who live amongst trees, an inexpensive and unobtrusive fencing method is to attach 8 to 9 foot black plastic mesh to tree trunks and enclose a protected area, while installing a gate across the driveway. This approach is fragile; falling limbs can cause damage, deer will find and push through any weak spots, and the mesh requires a lot of upkeep.

Some homeowners resort to installing high metal fencing. This provides better protection, but adds an unintentional POW aesthetic reminiscent of Stalag 17.

Another possibility is regular application of deer repellent. Over-the-counter repellents get mixed reviews, but some landscapers say that New York Deer Control is having success with year-round scheduled applications of repellent.

Ironically, the more that people build fences to keep deer off their property, the fewer places the deer have left to forage, and the more pressure they put on remaining unfenced land. Economists, so very dismal by nature, have labeled this phenomenon “the tragedy of the commons” and define it as when individuals neglect the well-being of society in the pursuit of personal gain. As the 1982 movie Koyaanisqatsi (which streams for free on Pluto) points out, “Life is out of balance.” Even in Palisades. Perhaps the deer are reading econ textbooks these days; now that’s intelligence!