Do deer tweet?

Sounds like a silly question … but they must. They recently had a tweet-up in my gardens. I’m not a tweeterer, so I didn’t find out until the nighttime event was over.

This was not a tweet-up for deer with plain ole’ everyday tastes. Nope … the event must have been only for high-brow uppity-up deer with discerning tastes.  And … invitees had to have been warned to show up hungry.

I think it was billed as a taste test … to compare the flavor of their usual menu of Echinacea leaves (they tend to pass on the fully opened blossoms), azalea shrubs, leaves of climbing hydrangea (hydrangea anomala petiolaris).


(the arrows show where deer munched)

They’ve pruned  the winterberry shrub (Ilex verticillata) to within a few leaves of life.


This tweet-up was designed to expand to more unusual munchies. Some, like the many mounds of geranium sanguineum, they had only nibbled in the spring when fresh greens are in short supply.


Now the geranium are nearly leafless.

They did the same (note the arrows) to the Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla) in a bed once dominated by the dew-drop catching foliage.


They relieved astilbe of the seedy remains of once-flowers.


In all my years here, deer have never touched astilbe. I hope they hated the taste!

They chewed the tops from my snaps, my go-to annual for planting in deer-reachable beds.


They cut-back the supposedly deer-resistant hypericum shrub picked up at a spring plant sale.



And left me many tell-tale hoof prints (the circled area shows the hoof-shaped imprint in the mulch), just to be sure I knew they had partied at my expense.


They even chomped off the top leaves of a newly-planted peony.


A RAKIN’ FRACKIN’ PEONY, FRAGNABBIT! (My best Yosemite Sam imitation.)

I try to work with these creatures. I plant deer resistant plants in the beds they can reach, and accept their selective pruning of other less deer resistant greenery. Until now, deer visiting my gardens have not touched astilbe or peony and, as I said above, only nibbled on Alchemilla and geranium sanguineum in the spring.

Because I plant supposedly deer resistant plants, I don’t regularly use deer repellent spray and I’m not spending the time or money on a commercial spray now.

The damage is done. It’s mid August.

(Sigh … deep breath)

The plants will recover.

I’m beyond screaming about damaged plants, ruminating over the amount of money I’ve spent on deer fodder, and researching the latest and greatest deer repellent or deterrent. Some of the beds cannot be attractively fenced and, without winning the lottery, perimeter fencing is not an option.

I still chase deer away when I see them and, if anyone knows how to detect those damn deer tweets, I’m listening.

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10 comments for “Do deer tweet?

  1. August 14, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Joene, I think the drought has really intensified deer-browsing. As I write this it’s raining so hopefully the garden munching will subside for a while. This week I’ve seen 5- 6 deer in my garden at dawn each day. They seem to be wandering on different paths and tasting typically deer resistant plants, just like in your garden. My poor smoothleaf hydrangea which is usually left alone seems to be a favorite. Like you, I kind of feel like ‘oh well, it’s mid-August’ but I certainly don’t want this to become a habit.

    • joenesgarden
      August 14, 2011 at 8:59 pm

      I’m not so sure the deer browsing is related to drought here, Debbie. They did not come into the yard to eat until well after rain had greened things up in the woods. There is plenty of greenery for them to eat … not just among my plantings. Deer in my area seem to be wandering off thier usual paths, but this is probably exacerbated by the tree felling we had done that blocked some of thier paths. I definitely have more young bucks this year. Prior years I saw higher numbers of does and fawns.

      I’m seeing more creature damage and more creatures overall this year, possibly a result of the heavy snows or the unusually high acorn numbers last fall. We have many more voles, lots of squirrels, fox all over the neighborhood and a healthier than usual chipmunk population. On the plus side, slug damage in my yard is down in spite of the wet spring, I have very few Japanese beetles and virtually no aphid infestations … even on the nasturtium.

      An unusual year … or maybe this is the new normal?

  2. August 14, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    Aaaargh, my blood pressure went up just reading this post. There is no such thing as deer resistant plants. It all depends on the age of the plants (anything newly planted they will eat immediately to see what it is), the conditions in the woods (as Debbie says, when it gets too dry they look outside the woodland areas), and the efficiency of their tweet up networks, which as you know, work to maximize news about any tasty plants previously undiscovered. Aaargh.

    • joenesgarden
      August 14, 2011 at 9:01 pm

      They do tend to nibble on newly planted offerings but most of my plants have been planted for years. They attacked large masses of greenery usually untouched. The lesson here is not to count on deer leaving anything alone. They eat what and when they want.

  3. August 14, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    It is so frustrating…so sorry! I think the rabbits around my yard must tweet because they seem to know when I am not in the garden or when the Tabasco sauce deterrent has washed away to return for another nibble.

    • joenesgarden
      August 15, 2011 at 12:52 pm

      Sounds like we need to figure out how to prevent creature tweets, Sage Butterfly, or just accept that we will lose some foliage, flowers, and/or fruit to hungry visitors.

  4. August 16, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Joene, You have my sympathy. Do you think this deer rampage into plants they don’t normally eat is a sign of some kind of stress on the deer population — if not from drought (as in Deb’s Alabama garden), then from some other cause like new development and loss of habitat or an increase in the size of the local deer herd? I do have deer come into my garden to browse in late summer/fall, but it’s because I’m not here, walking around the garden and leaving my scent everywhere, and they only browse selectively on favorite foods (like eating all the leaves off the hostas). It’s in spring when they are very hungry that I normally find damage to “deer resistant” plants.

    • joenesgarden
      August 16, 2011 at 10:34 am

      Jean, I definitely think part of it is due to an increase in local populations. We’ve had two heavy mast (acorn, beech, hickory nuts) years in a row. More food = more creatures. I’ve noticed heavier populations of chipmunk, voles, mice, squirrels, fox, fisher, and deer … and for the first time in 13 years I saw a rabbit on my property. Because of the increased rodent population I came across, for the first time, two rat snakes. I think the forests are so over-foraged that this pushes deer closer and closer to yards and gardens. I’m in my gardens all the time … and I chase deer away every time I see them nearby. Neither seems to make a difference this year. Maybe they are overly hungry … maybe they are just bored with the forest offerings. It will certainly be interesting to see what this fall and winter bring weather- and mast-wise, and to see what deer do next year.

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