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What to Do About Deer

Killing is not the answer to conflicts with deer

  • People unintentionally set the stage for conflicts with deer. We also hold the power to stop conflicts humanely. Allen Rutberg/Tufts

Wildlife habitat is increasingly engulfed by suburban sprawl, and the white-tailed deer has not only adapted but thrives in our altered landscapes. Short-cropped lawns and tasty flowers in suburban backyards provide exactly the kind of food that deer prefer.

People often assume there are "too many deer" when they experience a conflict, yet the reality is that deer problems may be totally unrelated to their numbers. For instance, even if there is only one deer in a community, she will still find her way to any and all tulip gardens, because deer love tulips.

Deer conflicts are not necessarily a function of their numbers, but rather a result of the backyard deer buffets we've unknowingly created for them.

A comprehensive plan

All too often, the response to deer in places they are not wanted is to take lethal action to remove them. Killing deer as a "solution" to conflicts with them is, at best, a short-term, inhumane, and ineffective approach. The most promising way forward for most homeowners is a combination of techniques to modify landscapes so that deer will be less attracted to them. For communities with deer conflicts, the best approach is to institute a comprehensive plan addressing each of the root causes of conflict.


Our free guide, "Living with Wild Neighbors in Urban and Suburban Communities: A Guide for Local Leaders," gives elected officials and other decision-makers the tools to implement long-lasting, nonlethal solutions to community wildlife conflicts.

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