Deer Spotting!

We live exactly 1.5 miles from Bath Abbey but despite a relatively urban setting, we have deer in the garden.   We know they visit us by their elegant hoof prints but we hardly ever see them – but this last 3 mornings running we’ve seen a pair of deer (they may not be the same pair –this morning they seemed smaller than yesterday).  Yesterday it was at 10am which is really unusual. They’re just hungry. Deer are vegetarian and with all the plants being so frosty, they’re struggling to find enough to eat.

Also, it’s at this time of year normally that they are laying down their fat stores, developing highly insulating coats and they ought to be decreasing their activity and metabolism ready for a harsh winter – trouble is, the harsh winter has come too soon.

So, I’ve been doing a bit of research on whether to feed the deer (party to prevent them eating plants they wouldn’t normally look at). I am conscious that thousands of customers only a few weeks ago received their pre-orders of bare root or root ball hedging so having ordered early and then planted early to give a new hedge the best possible start, we know you don’t want deer (or other wild animals) eating your new hedge.

All the advice on the internet is NOT to feed deer. Some US websites suggest that you can use sheep or cattle feed, bruised fruit or old vegetables (you’ve to cut the veg up small) – but generally the advice is that

–          It takes too long for deer’s digestion to adjust to food we might leave out rather than their normal grazing – they’re tummy might be full but it doesn’t provide the nutrition they need especially at this time of year

–          It creates a dependency that isn’t in the wild animals’ best long term interests

–          Feeding concentrates deer which can spread diseases

–          Competition for food becomes more intense with young fawns losing out to dominant adults

–          It can attract vermin

So, sadly, I’m not going to provide food but I am going to break the ice in the bird bath a couple of times each day and replace it with tepid water for the benefit of the deer as well as the birds.

Those of you who are concerned that deer might graze on new hedging should consider using human hair (ask the local hairdresser) in an old pair of tights, hung on the hedging, or smelly socks.  Both need to be replaced after heavy rain. There are also a range of deer repellents available online but we hear that the old wives’ remedies are very effective.

Sorry – no photograph of the deer – but the ones I saw yesterday were not more than 5m from me (I was outdoors) and they stood and looked at me whilst I stood and looked at them – before they bounded over a 5ft high wall.

Does anyone know why deer are usually seen in pairs?