One of your goals in establishing or restoring Garry oak habitat may be to attract native wildlife. For example, you may have chosen particular native plants to provide food and water for birds and butterflies — and find you have created some tasty treats for deer as well.
Some people enjoy the deer, and welcome their presence. Others want to discourage them. Deer can do a great deal of damage, especially to young and tender plants. Well-established plants will often re-grow the parts that have been eaten, leaving little long-term impact.
While Columbian black-tailed deer are native to Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, some islands are also inhabited by non-native deer, along with feral sheep and goats.
While it may be easy to justify exluding exotic animals such as rabbits or grey squirrels from your restoration site, exluding native deer may seem to go against what would be considered “natural” for Garry oak and associated ecosystems.
However, in urban areas where predators have been removed, hunting is banned, and food sources are abundant, deer populations often far exceed natural levels. In this case, it may be advisable to exclude deer. This is especially recommended if you have planted greenhouse-grown plants that may not have had the opportunity to adapt to pressure from herbivores.
If you decide deer control methods are necessary, here are some ideas to try:
Another option is to grow plants that deer prefer to eat and hope that they leave your other plants alone. For example, many deer enjoy red osier dogwood, which is a native plant that’s easy to grow.