Controlling Rabbits & Deer

Controlling Rabbits and Deer

This has to be the number one problem gardeners deal with in many areas.  Controlling rabbits and deer, and minimizing their damage, is usually the best we can do.

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The most effective control is fencing.  To keep rabbits out, fencing must be high enough to prevent them from jumping over - 3 feet should do, maybe 4-5 feet if you have jackrabbits like we do.  And the fence, not just the posts, should be buried up to 6 inches to prevent them from digging under.  To keep the deer out, a top would be necessary, or the fence should be 10-12 feet high - they are amazing jumpers.   For most gardeners, this is only practical for a small garden, usually our vegetables.

Where fencing out the deer and rabbits is not practical, a combination of methods is generally most effective.  Applying blood meal to the soil surface is effective, but gone with the rain, therefore expensive.  Hair trimmings they seem to get used to pretty quickly.   Deer Off spray, by Havahart, can be sprayed directly on plants, and deters nibblers with a bad odor and taste (basically rotten eggs).  It can be sprayed on vegetables up to 2 weeks before harvest, and the vegetables should be washed.  Deer & Rabbit Repellent by Liquid Fence is a similar product, but seems a bit more effective, perhaps because it is more foul in odor then Deer Off.  Either product should be sprayed quite heavily weekly at first, not only on the plants but on soil and/or objects surrounding your garden, or your yard perimeter, creating a “liquid” fence that may deter critters from approaching the garden in the first place.   Every 3-4 weeks thereafter.  However, just as my snap peas begin to form, or my lilies are about to burst open I give those plants a good dose so the critter who takes a bite will associate the plant with a bad taste.  Be aware that these sprays may damage the petals of blooms.  The sprays can also be effective on tree and shrub trunks if applied from fall to spring.

Alas, the spray alone will not do the job.  Both rabbits and deer may keep tasting, hoping the next one will taste better.  One morning you will discover something took one bite of every single thing in your garden.  So let’s get back to keeping them out of the garden in the first place.  Along with spray, you need a predator.  If you have a dog that roams the yard, that will help.  But our urban and suburban critters have figured out that our dogs are not exactly vicious predators, and that they are in the house overnight.  A family of deer used to stand across the street every night, in full view, waiting until our dog went out for the last time each night.  When they were sure she was safely inside for the night, it was dinnertime for the deer!  So I supplemented our “predator” with another predator - coyote urine.  It helped with the rabbits, but didn’t do much to slow the deer down, so I solicited the advice of a trapper and hunter.  He said, “you need cat urine, BIG cat urine!”  Mountain Lion pee seems to be quite effective!  They are a NATURAL predator of deer, and the deer know it.  I apply it to felt hang tags and hang it in bushes or low in trees, about every 6-10 feet along the perimeter where the deer enter, and here and there throughout my property (they avoided that perimeter for a while, walked down the street (!) to come in on the other side of the yard!).  I also dribble a little on boulders and the vegetable garden wall.  Keep in mind you are trying to replicate the way a cat marks it’s territory.   Try not to open the bottle in the garage, the smell will knock you right over.  And don’t invite visitors to stroll your garden right after you apply, the odor is unbelievable.  You can order a variety of predator urine from or

Sharon DwyerComment