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Deer & Trees & Such

Bambi is cute. His daddy and momma are majestic and elegant—and all of them are very, very hungry! No doubt you have noticed that deer these days are becoming bolder and deer-resistant plant lists are shrinking each year. Why?

Populations in suburban-rural areas are increasing due to many factors, and all the while their native food sources are dwindling.

Toxic and disagreeable landscape plants are becoming necessary for their forage as natural predators, hunting, and routes for migration become almost non-existent. Often corn is provided with good intentions, but it is well-documented that it is of little nutritional value and can cause deer to die as a result of acidosis. It has become a situation which is costly and undesirable for hill country communities and deer alike. One of the best sources of food for deer has always been the acorn. One of the less considered repercussions of the national tree epidemic we all call oak wilt is the loss of this major deer diet staple in those more and more prevalent locales where this fungal pathogen has caused the death of oak trees. Property clearing has also affected them by the generic approach of removing everything but the Live Oaks and grass (Deer don’t have the capacity to digest mature grasses.) from the lot and raising tree canopies above the height that deer can reach to browse. Also, not a minor issue of deer over-population is the genetic defects arising from in-breeding.

Though some may think it is “neat” to see deer so close to our back porches, it is incredibly unnatural.

The lack of fear and decline of self-preservation instincts can take a serious toll on our safety on the roads that the deer constantly jay-walk across, as well as our insurance premiums.

Obviously and arguably the worst consequence is the painful injury and likely drawn-out death the deer experience after vehicular impact. Another result of this lack of fear (along with hormonal craziness) is that bucks in rut choose our landscape trees as their punching bags if you will—letting out their aggression and leaving their scent behind—both culminating in the likely event of your tree dying. Cages or plastic protectors are absolutely critical for any planted tree to survive these days.

Humane, well-thought-out plans of action are absolutely necessary to bring deer populations to levels (and maintain them at those levels) advised by wildlife experts, who have the knowledge and are motivated by compassion to seek the good of both the community and the deer. Trapping, relocating, more park space, food plots of nutritional forbs, mast, browse, as well as regular education of the public of informed care practices for these amazing animals are just a few of the many things which can help enrich our lives and theirs.

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