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Eek! A deer. June 24, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, pets, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Our friend Ben had rushed off for an appointment and I was trying to finish off the morning chores when the phone rang. It was our 89-year-old next-to-next-door neighbor, and she had some news with a capital N.

“There’s a deer in your backyard!”

Oh, no. In all the years OFB and I have lived here in the precise middle of nowhere, PA, no deer has dared to show its face in our yard. Rushing to the back deck door, I saw that our neighbor’s sharp eyes (and binoculars, conveniently located on their back porch to observe all comings and goings) were not mistaken: the biggest doe I’d ever seen was ambling around the backyard, checking out the offerings.

Predictably, our black German shepherd, Shiloh, far from letting loose with a volley of the deafening barks she never hesitates to fling at any human or dog who comes within view, lay down quietly at my feet as I watched the giant deer meander around. Oh, well, she’s not a hunting dog, after all.

Once the deer had wandered off, I took Shiloh with me out back to see if we could spot it crossing the farmer’s fields behind our property, but it had vanished from view. Shriek!

As everyone on the East Coast knows, deer are pretty much unequaled as garden and landscape pests, and will eat anything if they’re desperate and it’s not too thorny to stop them. Humans killed off all their natural predators, so now their only predators are vehicles and hunters. And white-tailed deer, the kind we have here, have proven to be incredibly adaptable to suburban conditions.

This one was probably checking out all the fruit that’s ripening or maturing here at Hawk’s Haven now: blueberries and raspberries, pears and apples, peaches and pluots, grapes and pawpaws, elderberries and cherries. It didn’t seem to be actually eating anything, just wandering around checking things out. But the fact that it had showed up here at all was disturbing in the extreme, and not just because our crops and ornamental plants are in peril.

Pennsylvania is the epicenter of Lyme disease, a disease transmitted to humans and dogs from deer ticks. And our local paper had just carried an article this week saying that ticks were out in record numbers this year thanks to our wet winter (ticks apparently require humidity to survive the winter). We put Frontline on our Shiloh’s neck every month to protect her from ticks, and she’s been vaccinated against Lyme disease. But what about us?

One of our good friends’ husbands and one of our colleagues contracted Lyme disease, and to say that the effects have been debilitating is an understatement. Terrifying is more like it. And they go on and on and on, year after year after year, taking a mental and emotional as well as a physical toll on the victims and on their families. While dogs can be miraculously cured of the paralyzing effects of Lyme disease with a single injection if the problem is recognized in time and the dog brought promptly to the vet, with people it’s apparently not that easy, far from it. This is one disease you definitely want to avoid.

So seeing a deer—presumably loaded with deer ticks—in the backyard is far more horrifying than simply observing a potential freeloader sizing up a meal. I guess it’s time to train Shiloh to “mark” our boundaries in the hope that this will discourage any further incursions. And if that doesn’t work, maybe it’s time to try out some predator urine, available from many garden supply stores. But, uh, I think I’ll have our friend Ben handle that part…

       ‘Til next time,




1. nancybond - June 24, 2011

Oh, deer…oh, dear! I do hope you can avoid any more of these admittedly beautiful creatures. My daughter hikes a lot and Lyme is one of the things I worry about most. (They say bars of heavily scented/deodorant type soap can help discourage the critters?)

Hi Nancy! Yes, over the years I’ve read that bars of deodorant soap, bags of hair, blood- and bonemeal, even human and predator urine can keep deer away. But I suspect the only things that really work (for long, anyway) are a high, stout fence or a yard full of Rottweilers!

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