Nocturnal Nibblers: White Tailed Deer   

Related Articles

Majestic Visitors with an Appetite

White-tailed deer are elegant creatures known for their graceful presence in natural landscapes. However, in an urban or suburban environment, they can become nocturnal nibblers, causing potential nightmares for gardeners. Understanding their behavior and implementing effective strategies can help you coexist with these nighttime visitors.

Is it Good or Bad to Have White-Tailed Deer in Your Garden?

I love when I am walking in the park and we see a deer but I hate to come home and see them helping themselves to my garden. So the answer is a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, they add a touch of nature’s beauty to your surroundings. On the other hand, they can cause significant damage to plants and landscaping. Striking a balance between appreciating their presence and protecting your garden is essential.

Identifying White-Tailed Deer:

  • Size and Appearance: White-tailed deer are large mammals, with adult males (bucks) weighing between 150 to 300 pounds and females (does) weighing slightly less. They have a reddish-brown coat in the summer, which turns grayish-brown in the winter. The characteristic white underside of their tail is a distinguishing feature. In many residential surroundings you might not even know they are there until you see that white tail move.
  • Antlers (Males): Bucks have antlers, which they shed and regrow each year. Antlers can be impressive in size, with multiple points.
  • Herbivorous Diet: White-tailed deer are primarily herbivores, feeding on a wide variety of plants, including leaves, shoots, fruits, and nuts. They have lists in every garden center about what plants are deer-resistant, and after almost two decades of landscaping experience, I don’t believe any of them. Deer resistant just means they will come back to it after they have eaten everything else. These big animals can eat a ton in a short time.
    With this said, I have seen videos of deer eating live snakes whole, so I guess they are pretty adaptable.

You will know if they have been in your area by either a ton of vegetation chewed to the ground or their piles of pellet-shaped poop that they leave anywhere they have been eating or resting.


  1. Feeding Patterns: Deer are most active during dawn and dusk, making them nocturnal nibblers. They often forage for food during these times. It is cooler during these times, so they are likely to be more out in the open and go back to cover during the days.
  2. Seasonal Movement: In the winter, when food sources are scarce, deer may venture closer to human-inhabited areas in search of sustenance.
  3. Social Animals: Deer are social creatures, often found in small groups, especially does and their fawns.

What Do They Like to Eat:

White-tailed deer have a broad palate, feeding on various plants, including:

  • Tender shoots and leaves of shrubs and trees
  • Grasses and forbs
  • Fruits and berries
  • Garden vegetables like lettuce, beans, and peas

Managing White-Tailed Deer in a Sustainable Way:

  1. Fencing: Install deer-resistant fencing around your garden to create a physical barrier. Deer can jump a 6 foot fence pretty easily if they need to, so a roof on a garden or netting to make them not want to jump into it is a good idea. I love deer netting, staple some to simple framing can be a cheap way to keep them out.
  2. Repellents: Use natural or commercial deer repellents on plants to deter them from feeding. You can also make homemade sprays that have peppers or blood meal in them. You want the deer to think preditors or bad smells are always around your area so they naturally go to ones that don’t smell that way. The problem with these methods are they get used to it and call your bluff, or the product goes away when it rains.
  3. Scare Tactics: Implement scare devices like motion-activated lights, noise-makers, or scarecrows to startle deer. If the deer are like the ones in my neighborhood though, they won’t give a shit and will come eat anyways. They are smart and don’t scare as easy as you might think.
  4. Plants Resistant to Deer: Choose plants that are less appealing to deer for your garden. Thinks with strong smells and thorns are a good idea, but not always fully effective.
  5. Deer-Resistant Landscaping: Incorporate deer-resistant plants in your landscape design to deter them from your property.
  6. Habitat Modification: Eliminate plants that are particularly attractive to deer, and consider planting in raised beds or containers.
  7. Natural Barriers: Planting hedges or shrubs around the perimeter of your property can create a natural deterrent for deer.

By understanding the behavior of white-tailed deer and implementing sustainable management techniques, you can find a harmonious balance between appreciating their presence and safeguarding your garden. This approach allows both your plants and these majestic creatures to thrive in your outdoor space.

Be sure to send your deer tricks and tips to our Instagram page.


More on this topic



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Popular stories