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Managing Deer Damage

White-tailed deer can cause significant damage to agricultural fields, gardens, landscaping, orchards, and nurseries. In many cases, management actions are necessary to mitigate damage and prevent future damage from occurring. This page provides information for landowners interested in implementing management techniques to reduce deer damage.

Deer Damage

  • Although damage seems to appear suddenly, problems rarely happen overnight.
  • Damage may result from recent landscape changes or insufficient herd reduction through natural mortality or hunting.
  • The extent of deer damage may be influenced by the size of the local deer population, habitat availability, hunting pressure, disease, and human land-use patterns.
  • Deer damage is minimal from a statewide perspective but can be severe in localized areas.
  • Severe damage is usually the result of a highly preferred crop planted in an area of high deer density.

Report a Conflict

Indiana residents having conflicts with white-tailed deer can help Indiana DNR collect information by using the wildlife complaint form. This form allows DNR to track reports of conflicts for key species of interest. The form does not submit a permit application on your behalf to remove an animal, and it should not be used to submit sightings of white-tailed deer. To get a permit to remove deer, contact your local district wildlife biologist. DNR appreciates the support of Indiana residents in helping us collect better information about wildlife conflicts.

Damage Management

Indiana DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife is committed to careful, responsible management of the state’s deer population to balance the needs of wildlife and citizens. When setting healthy population goals in localized areas, wildlife biologists consider two things:

  • Biological carrying capacity: the ability of the habitat to support the deer population
  • Cultural carrying capacity: the tolerance of residents toward deer-related damage

With these carrying capacities in mind, biologists implement a variety of management techniques to manage deer damage and regain balance. Management techniques include hunting, exclusion, harassment, and repellants. Use of these techniques depends on the type of damage, degree of damage, size of the damaged area, and budget.

Management Techniques

The recommended management techniques listed below can be implemented by landowners to deter deer from causing damage on their property. Techniques are categorized by the type of damage they are most effective at preventing. This is not a comprehensive list, and some techniques may be suitable for multiple types of damage.

For additional information and support, contact a local district wildlife biologist.

Landscaping, Gardening, Residential/Urban Areas

In residential and urban areas, where deer damage may occur to landscaping and gardens, fencing, harassment, and community hunting may be effective management techniques.

Urban deer management has limitations specific to local ordinances. The Urban Deer Technical Guide provides more information about living with deer in an urban and residential setting.

The techniques below are best suited for small areas, roughly 2 acres or less.

  • Conventional Fencing

    Deciding on a type of fence depends on the cost of materials vs. the benefit of protecting plants, length of time the affected plants are susceptible to deer damage, and whether the fence should be permanent or temporary. Conventional fencing is designed to provide a physical barrier to deer and is effective for protecting plants in backyards and residential areas.

    Exclusion fence
    • Exclusion fences are highly effective at restricting deer.
    • They are constructed using two widths of woven wire fencing to provide a minimum vertical height of 8 feet. Deer can easily jump fences of lower heights.
    • Fence posts are placed 10-12 feet apart.
    • Plastic fencing manufactured specifically for deer exclusion is also available.
    • Exclusion fences are best for small areas and highly valued crops for an extended period of time.

    Image courtesy of Nebraska Cooperative Extension.

    Snow fencing
    • Lattice-type snow fencing can be used successfully around small garden plots.
    • Deer tend to jump the fence if too large an area is surrounded.
    • Snow fencing is less expensive than woven wire and can be removed and reused as needed.
    Slanted outrigger fence
    • The slanted outrigger fence is a modified woven wire fence and consists of stock wire strung on slanted outrigger braces.
    • The braces are mounted to vertical fence posts.
    • Deer are confused by the slanted fence and the distance required to clear it.
    • A permanent or long-term slanted outrigger fence is more cost effective than a temporary fence.

    Image courtesy of Nebraska Cooperative Extension.

    Binder twine fence
    • The binder twine fence is a modified version of the woven wire fence.
    • Binder twine is strung as a conventional fence around the crop, and it is strung in a horizontal grid over the top of the crop, completely surrounding the crop.
    • Deer are reluctant to jump over and down through the twine.
    • Binder twine fence is effective in protecting relatively small gardens and flower beds.
  • Electric Fencing

    Electric fence is intended to modify deer behavior. Temporary electric fences are simple, relatively inexpensive to install, and effective at protecting gardens. They require regular inspection and maintenance to ensure the electric current is flowing properly.

    Single strand electric fence does not restrict deer well because it is difficult to properly ground the fence, deer can slip past the wire without being shocked; and the fence has low visibility. Modifications of the single strand electric fence, however, provide effective   physical and psychological barriers to deer.

    Scented Fence
    • Scented fences are baited with liquid lures every 50 to 100 feet to provide deer with a negative experience.
    • A concentrated scent is added to cotton inside a metal cap attached to the wire fence. Alternatively, peanut butter is applied to a piece of aluminum foil folded over the electrified wire.
    • Deer are attracted to the lure and investigate, contacting the metal caps and foil in the process.
    • After being shocked, deer learn to avoid the fenced area.
    • Scented fences are effective for small gardens, nurseries, and orchards (up to 3 or 4 acres) that are subject to moderate deer pressure.

    Image courtesy of Nebraska Cooperative Extension.

    Polytape electric fence
    • Polytape electric fence consists of a single strand of brightly colored polytape suspended about 30 inches above the ground.
    • Polytape is a plastic ribbon about ½ inch wide that provides visibility and maintains tension while interwoven strands of stainless steel or aluminum wire carry electrical current. Deer are attracted to investigate the band of tape, curiously touch the tape with their nose, and receive a mild electric shock.
    • Even in low light conditions, deer can still see the highly visible plastic tape and make the association between it and the electrical shock.
    • Four-foot fiberglass slats used as the line posts may be placed as far as 60 feet apart between corners.
    • Polytape fence is most effective at deterring deer in areas of 40 acres or less.
    • A second strand of polytape may be added about six inches above the ground to deter raccoons or rabbits.
    Advantages of polytape fences:
    • Only one strand of polytape is needed to repel deer.
    • Polytape is pliable and can be easily rolled up and stored when it’s no longer needed to protect the crop.
    • Because it is lightweight, polytape fence requires minimal tension and, therefore, corner brace posts are not needed.

    Image courtesy of Nebraska Cooperative Extension.

  • Harassment

    Harassment can be an effective technique to deter deer when applied consistently over time. The type of harassment may need to change periodically to prevent deer from becoming acclimated, which renders the harassment ineffective.

    Dogs
    • Dogs are effective deer deterrents in residential and urban areas when kept in a pen, on a chain, or contained by a fence in or near landscaping and gardens.
    • Dogs should be placed in the area at least a month before damage is likely to occur.
    Motion Sensing Deterrents
    • Automated motion sensing lights and sprinklers that turn on when an animal walks by may scare deer and encourage them to leave.
    • Place devices near landscaping and gardens that are likely to experience damage.
    • Effective harassment may require several devices in a single area.
    • It is best to have devices in place before damage occurs.
  • Community Hunting
    • Hunting is the most effective method to reduce a local deer population and subsequent deer damage.
    • State regulations allow hunting in urban and residential areas, subject to local ordinances.
    • Hunting efforts in a residential area may require community participation to adequately address damage issues experienced by all residents.
    • Neighbors can join together to hunt in their community while following regulations outlined in the Indiana Hunting & Trapping Guide.
    • Some residential areas may be included in designated Deer Reduction Zones that allow the take of additional deer to reduce human-deer conflicts.
    • Indiana DNR’s Community Hunting Access Program provides funding for a certified hunt coordinator to facilitate a community hunt.
  • Repellents
    • Most commercially available repellents are considered by wildlife biologists to have limited effectiveness at deterring deer.
    • Excess moisture in the form of dew and humidity tend to reduce the potency of chemical repellents.
    • Deer may ignore the repellent and consume the plant anyway.
    • Repellents require consistent application to increase effectiveness.

Truck Crops, Orchards, Nurseries, Tree Plantings

Management techniques suitable for truck crops, orchards, nurseries, and tree plantings include fencing, large scale harassment, and hunting. These techniques are best suited for highly valuable crops or areas of 2-10 acres.

  • Conventional Fencing
    • Conventional fencing provides a physical barrier to deer.
    • Materials for conventional fencing may be expensive when protecting larger areas.
    • Permanent conventional fencing may be more cost effective than temporary fencing, especially when protecting large areas or highly valuable crops.

    Exclusion fence

    • The exclusion fence is the most effective type of conventional fence.
    • The benefit of protecting highly valued crops may outweigh the expense of erecting a conventional fence around larger areas.
    • They are constructed using 2 widths of woven wire fencing to provide a minimum vertical height of 8 feet. Deer can easily jump fences of lower heights.
    • Fence posts are placed 10-12 feet apart.
    • Plastic fencing manufactured specifically for deer exclusion is also available.
    • Exclusion fences are best for small areas and highly valued crops for an extended period of time.

    Image courtesy of Nebraska Cooperative Extension.

    Slanted outrigger fence

    • The slanted outrigger fence is a modified woven wire fence and consists of stock wire strung on slanted outrigger braces.
    • The braces are mounted to vertical fence posts.
    • Deer are confused by the slanted fence and the distance required to clear it.
    • A permanent or long-term slanted outrigger fence is more cost effective than a temporary fence.

    Image courtesy of Nebraska Cooperative Extension.

  • Electric Fencing

    Permanent, high tensile electric fences provide year-round security. Because of construction expenses and continual operation and maintenance costs, permanent electric fences are most practical for orchards, nurseries, and other places that raise other highly valued crops.

    Electric fence is intended to modify deer behavior, and must be erected before ongoing damage happens or in advance of crop emergence.

    Electric fence requires regular inspection for damage and monitoring the supply of electrical current. There must be a constant flow of electricity for the deer to learn the fence should be avoided.

    Polytape electric fence
    • Polytape electric fence consists of a single strand of brightly colored polytape suspended about 30 inches above the ground.
    • Polytape is a plastic ribbon about ½ inch wide that provides visibility and maintains tension while interwoven strands of stainless steel or aluminum wire carry electrical current. Deer are attracted to investigate the band of tape, curiously touch the tape with their nose, and receive a mild electric shock.
    • Even in low light conditions, deer can still see the highly visible plastic tape and make the association between it and the electrical shock.
    • Four-foot fiberglass slats used as the line posts may be placed as far as 60 feet apart between corners.
    • Polytape fence is most effective at deterring deer in areas of 40 acres or less.
    • A second strand of polytape may be added about 6 inches above the ground to deter raccoons or rabbits.
    Advantages of polytape fences:
    • Only one strand of polytape is needed to repel deer.
    • Polytape is pliable and can be easily rolled up and stored when it’s no longer needed to protect the crop.
    • Because it is lightweight, polytape fence requires minimal tension; therefore, corner brace posts are not needed.

    Image courtesy of Nebraska Cooperative Extension.

    Multiple strand electric fence
    • Electric fences with multiple strands are more effective at deterring deer than single strand fences.
    • Multiple strand fences consist of two rows of electric fence spaced about 3 feet apart.
    • The outermost row may consist of a single strand, while the row closest to the crop may consist of one or more strands. Deer are unable to judge the distance required to jump the fence.
    Scented fence
    • Scented fences are baited with liquid lures every 50 to 100 feet to provide deer with a negative experience.
    • A concentrated scent is added to cotton inside a metal cap attached to the wire fence. Alternatively, peanut butter is applied to a piece of aluminum foil folded over the electrified wire.
    • Deer are attracted to the lure and investigate, contacting the metal caps and foil in the process.
    • After being shocked, deer learn to avoid the fenced area.
    • Scented fences are effective for small gardens, nurseries, and orchards (up to 3 or 4 acres) subject to moderate deer pressure.
    • Scented lures provide additional effectiveness to multiple strand electric fences by increasing their visibility and attracting deer.

    Image courtesy of Nebraska Cooperative Extension.

    Protecting Young Trees
    • A 4- to 5-foot tall commercial tree tube or homemade woven wire cage around young trees can prevent deer from eating terminal buds and rubbing the trunk with antlers.
    • Conifer tree buds can be protected with paper or plastic mesh bud caps over the buds or central stem.
    • Once the tree’s main terminal bud is beyond a deer’s reach, the tree is much more likely to survive without needing further protection.
    • Re-forestation suppliers often carry tree tubes, bud caps, and other damage prevention materials.
  • Harassment

    Harassment techniques require consistency to be effective at deterring deer and may be more difficult to implement in large areas; however, two potentially effective techniques include the use of dogs and noise cannons.

    Dogs
    • Dogs can be an effective deterrent when kept in pens or on a chain, or when contained by fencing in or near an area likely to experience deer damage.
    • Turning a dog loose in a large open field or allowing a dog to roam free on the property is typically ineffective.
    • In large areas, consider using dogs specifically bred for herding, such as Australian shepherds, blue heelers, and border collies.
    • To be most effective, dogs should be placed in the affected area at least one month before to the anticipated time of deer damage.
    Noise Cannons
    • Propane gas powered cannons and other noise cannon devices may startle deer and change their behavior.
    • Noise harassment requires consistency to be effective.
    • When using noise cannons, follow local ordinances.
  • Hunting

    Hunting is the most effective method of managing deer populations and reducing deer damage.

Large-Scale Production Fields

Deer damage to large-scale agriculture production fields often occurs over time. Due to the size of impacted fields, the most effective management technique to control deer damage is lethal removal of animals.

  • Hunting

    Regulated hunting is universally used by wildlife managers to remove excess deer and reduce property damage. Responsible, recreational hunting continues to be the most effective means of managing deer populations and reducing deer damage.

    Access for Hunting

    Allowing access to private land for hunting increases the potential to reduce the local deer population and subsequent deer damage.

    • Landowners may enlist hunters such as family, friends, or neighbors to hunt on their property.
    • Indiana DNR maintains a list of hunters who are looking for deer hunting opportunities and have volunteered to help landowners manage deer on their property.
    • Contact a district wildlife biologist or local conservation officer for a list of local hunters from the Deer Hunt Registry.
    Landowner Protection

    Landowners providing access for hunting are protected under Indiana law.

    • Hunters may only hunt on privately owned land with consent of the owner or tenant of that land (IC 14-22-10-1).
    • Landowners are not liable for an injury to a person or property caused by an act or failure to act of other persons on their property (IC-14-22-10-2.5).
    • Landowners are not liable for an injury to or the death of a hunter on their property if the injury or death results from the inherent risk of hunting (IC 34-31-9).
    • Landowners can impose further restrictions than the state, such as restricting the type of equipment a hunter is allowed to use (e.g., bow and arrow, crossbow, shotgun, rifle, etc.) and the number of deer a hunter can harvest.
    Antlerless Deer Harvest
    • Harvesting antlerless deer rather than trophy bucks is more effective at reducing the deer population on a property and thus reducing the potential for deer damage.
    • Indiana DNR allows increased harvest of antlerless deer on a county by county basis to provide opportunities for hunters to take additional deer in these types of situations (see Bonus Antlerless regulations).
    • Landowners may encourage or require hunters to harvest antlerless deer on their property, following statewide regulations, before they can harvest antlered deer.
  • Deer Control Permits

    In localized areas of high deer populations, excessive deer damage may require management outside the hunting season. If so, landowners experiencing major damage may request a deer control permit from Indiana DNR for the lethal take of deer causing damage.

    • Deer must be causing or threatening to cause economic damage to property in excess of $500 dollars annually.
    • The number of deer authorized per permit depends on the amount of deer damage and the size of the area affected.
    • Permits are issued outside the regular deer hunting season.

    Landowners who experience extensive deer damage and are interested in applying for a deer control permit may contact a local district wildlife biologist.

    Indiana DNR encourages landowners to hunt or allow hunting on their property before seeking a deer control permit.