One of the more endearing things for newcomers to the Island are the deer. They are everywhere!
To the residents, they are often considered annoyances. I can vouch for that since they prefer to eat everything I grow; particularly my roses! Even though there is plenty of wild shrubs and grasses to munch, they still go for the cultivated stuff. I guess you could say that we have deer with a “cultivated” taste for munchie greenery!
For the Islanders on Whidbey, deer are a road hazard. We must always be vigilant as we drive the Island’s roads for you never know when a group of deer may pop out of the brush! It happens any time of day!
So, I’m a gardener and love growing great splashes of color to enjoy for six to nine months out the year. For the longest time, I’ve waged war on the marauding creatures with various supposed deer-thwarting techniques from hanging bars of Irish Spring soap to hanging satchels of blood meal among my posies. None of it ever seemed to work! Then, the spray and granules became available and the first one that came out was the Liquid Fence. It does work! It works to keep them, me and everyone else away from the plants because IT STINKS SO DARNED BAD! Well, I’ve found a product that is effective and smells like Alyssum flower.
Instead of getting mad at the deer, I’ve decided to LEARN about them and work smartly to keeping them off my plants. Deer are creatures of habit. Once they establish a routine and route, they will follow that pattern – without fail – for their whole lives. We have a group of resident deer that make their way through our yards, munching and sampling whatever is available. I now know them. I watch them. I enjoy them. I play the Candid Camera game with them.
Here’s how I deal with them: The first Tuesday of February is the beginning of Deer Training. What I mean by that is every Tuesday (except when I’m on travel) I spray my effective training product over my plants. They don’t like it and will avoid those plants with the spray on them. I call it Negative Reinforcement Training. Training ends the last Tuesday of October. They are allowed to eat anything left still growing; usually the spent strawberry plant leaves going brown. They munch those down nice and tidy!
There is one particular doe I’ve come to know. She’s been making her route through mine and my neighbor’s yards for at least eight years, and maybe more! She gives birth to at least two fawns a year and often I see the older ones still following her around with the new fawns. I know her because she is distinct from all other deer in the area: She’s a survivor!!!
How I know that is she has just three legs. Her right front leg is completely gone from right at the ball joint where her leg meets her torso. It appears to me that she was rehabilitated because the wound site is so cleanly healed! It amazes me that she’s still alive because she is slow to cross roads with her painfully pronounced gimp, as she lumbers around, leading her babies to good feeding spots. Consistently, she bears fawns every year! I’ve named her Tripod!
It is Tripod and her brood that have taught me a lot about deer habits and how to live peacefully together. She has much in common with me because she IS a survivor, like me! She and her family have become a part of my family.