Deer, even the smaller muntjac, are large animals and, as a result, can cause severe damage to a wide range of plants if they come and visit. They strip plants bare of leaves and flowers, and can damage tree bark.
Deer, especially roe deer, are large, heavy mammals. They usually live in woodland, making forays into our gardens. Luckily, only 1 or 2 visit any any one time. They will eat, or nibble at, just about any plant material available, including shrubs, fruit and vegetables, and do most of their feeding between dusk and dawn.
Being large animals, deer will damage low-growing plants by trampling all over them.
They will eat, or nibble at, just about any plant material available, including shrubs, fruit and vegetables. They will even eat thorny plants.
They can also severely damage or even kill trees and shrubs by stripping the bark. This tends to be more of a problem in winter, when other food sources are scarce. Or they can cause damage by rubbing up against them.
Treatment and Control
Deer can only be discouraged or prevented from entering gardens with solid, effective fencing and locked gates. A deer-proof wire mesh fence needs to be 1.5m (5ft) tall for muntjac and 1.8m (6ft) for other deer. The bottom of the fence will need to be secured in the ground to prevent the deer from lifting it and getting in underneath. A battery-operated electric fence may be the best method of preventing them getting in.
Although not always effective, ultrasonic devices may deter them, but the deer tend to get used to them and soon ignore them. A radio left on all night, at levels that don't offend neighbours, may also be successful.
Chemical animal repellents are unlikely to be effective. Although marking boundaries with male urine may work as may hanging bags made from muslin or old nylon tights filled with human hair in places where deer are feeding or getting in to the garden.
Some plants are less desirable than others, but even the young growth of these can be damaged, especially when other food sources aren't available. A list of deer-resistant plants is available from the RHS website.