>Oh deer

As I sit here contemplating the inaction of a medium size mule deer buck just outside our garden (NOT pictured above), I can’t help but realize all of the similarities we share:

  • We are both taking a break after eating a herbaceous meal (his, various grasses, berries and fallen plums; mine, our own salad mix including arugula and turnips).
  • The species we belong to have overpopulated our respective habitats (in his defence, we killed off the cougars that would have kept his population in check. In our defence, not having killed the cougars may have also kept our own population in check).
  • We both subscribe to the notion that we are wild animals and, as such, will do whatever is necessary to not only continue living but to propagate our species. Neither of us hold any straw dog beliefs that humans (or deer) can engineer a way for all of the world’s species to live in perfect peaceful harmony.
  • We both set foot in the garden yesterday and ate from its stock of food.
  • It is this last point that is causing me the most consternation today. Recall that the land we are using to grow feed – er...food – is borrowed. Since we cannot predict with certainty how long we will be able to continue here, certain compromises had to be made; one of which was to erect a steel post and plastic mesh deer ‘barrier’ instead of the more expensive and time-consuming high tensile page wire. I use the word barrier in single quotes since any deer worth its antlers should be able to walk right through a plastic fence . That they still have not is a testament to the psychology of deer fencing. But the fact remains that one or more deer has been inside our garden enclosure and some action needs to be taken.

    So far, my investigation is inconclusive. Beans and potato leaves were munched and, I suspect, some tomato flowers. Probably some greens were sampled but there were no obvious signs (although someone else might think the butcher job I did with the greens harvester on the lettuce mix bed the other day was the work of a malicious doe). There were no piles of scat which suggests the visit was brief. For that, I am insulted.

    Recently a farmer friend suggested that deer would soon become a problem as sources of naturally occurring food whither in the seasonal drought (we’ve had some rain in the last 2 days but, before that, none for about two months). When I told him about our plastic fence, he advised that we install a 4′ width of stucco wire a foot off the ground to protect the critical 1-5′ level that the deer test with their heads. While I agree that this would probably be a smart thing to do, I believe the deer are probably getting in underneath the plastic fence since there is no evidence of any fence breakage. Less likely is that they are jumping over its 90″ height. Not that they couldn’t; just that they probably wouldn’t unless they were spooked while inside.

    The tracks left in the soil suggest a very conscientious fellow; always staying on the narrow animal-track-width pathways between beds. I have heard stories of them trampling the crop that they didn’t eat thus doing twice the damage. But not our buck. Even where the squash vines intersect pathways haphazardly, none were squished by his cloven hooves. Perhaps the deer here have evolved to be responsible crop stewards, never taking too much and not doing gratuitous damage. Or not.

    So, what to do. Well, on a Sunday, there are no stores open to even purchase fencing wire so that’s out. In any case, I doubt leaving a 1′ swath along the bottom is wise, since that’s where they’re likely getting in. I could extend the wire to the bottom but then it would only be 4′ high. I could wrap two widths one on top the other to make 8′ but then I will have wasted the existing plastic fence (time and materials) and still not have any guarantee of success.

    So I think I’ll continue to watch this guy in hour two of my ongoing coverage of The Buck Who’s Just Sitting There Being Lazy on a Sunday Afternoon.

    Apparently we have another thing in common.


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