Deer me! Whitetail buck torments yucca


Argh! A small herd of deer moved through the front garden this morning, as they do nearly every day, and I caught this buck in the act of shredding one of my softleaf yuccas with his antlers.


I’d wondered why this yucca seemed a little beaten up of late. The buck took several passes at rubbing his antlers on it, smashing the plant’s crown and shredding some of its leaves. I noticed wet streaks of scent markings all over the yucca after he’d moved on in his stately manner.

Unlike some gardeners with deer, I am not a fan. If I could I’d fence them out of the front yard. But since I can’t I try to learn to live with them. At least I can say with satisfaction (yet knowing this can change at any time as they get hungrier) that they aren’t eating anything I planted except hymenoxys (Tetraneuris scaposa), which they found quite tasty over the summer.

I think I’ll spray deer repellent on my yuccas, however, to try to save them from antler destruction.

All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

15 Responses

  1. Shannon, another Austin Gardener says:

    Pam, one of my neighbors uses proximity sprinklers (motion detecting) to spray the deer if they come near the plants. I saw this happen once and was laughing so hard I almost wrecked my car. The look on the deers’ faces was priceless. She said it only takes once or twice and they stay away after that.

    I’ve heard mixed reviews about deer sprinklers. Good to know it works for some people. —Pam

  2. I certainly know how you feel. I planted a new yucca in the front bed, and they’ve pulled it up so many times, I’m not sure it’ll make it.

    It’s been so dry here….no rain since September….they’ll start eating anything they can find soon.

    Good luck.

    It’s dry here too, Linda, although many of my suburban neighbors water regularly and keep things pretty lush for the deer. —Pam

  3. Weeder says:

    I tried those sprinklers once and succeeded in spraying myself often. The deer are smart. They will figure out when the sprinklers aren’t there any more. One year the bucks ravaged my Aralias and killed a loquat tree with their itchy antlers. Grrrrr. One would think rubbing on 100 yr old olive trees would be better.. but no.

    Grrr indeed, Weeder. I feel your pain. —Pam

  4. Darla says:

    I would not be happy either. Have you ever tried garlic spray?

    No, I haven’t. I have been hoping, by planting deer-resistant plants, not to have to rely on sprays except when plants are newly planted. So far the deer repellent from one of the box stores is working, when I use it. I haven’t had to spray since spring. —Pam

  5. Deer carry Lyme disease (or they do around here) like rats carried plague. Can you imagine people campaigning to save the rats? This is a public health epidemic in PA. No, like you, I no longer find them cute. Have you tried Repellex deer spray. It has a different formula (animal blood plasma with latex), works well, stays on, and doesn’t need to be rotated with other sprays. We have used it successfully for over 10 years. Every part of the plant must be sprayed including new buds, flowers, and leaves. Carolyn

    I don’t think that’s the spray I’m using. Thanks for the tip. I’ll give it a try when I have to buy more. —Pam

  6. David C says:

    Glad my locale has mountain lions, a freeway, and high water-use lawns in adjacent neighborhoods to keep deer busy. Though the nearby javelinas just might find their way up the arroyo some day…

    There are feral hogs running around some Austin neighborhoods that back up to forests where they live. Now THAT would be bad. I hear they can uproot an entire lawn/garden in one night. —Pam

  7. This makes me surprisingly glad to be an urban gardener. The worst I have had to deal with is regular raccoon poop in one spot on the remaining lawn.

    Rejoice in your deer-lessness, Jane. I used to…before we moved. —Pam

  8. S. Fox says:

    That is the most annoying thing about deer in the garden. I’ve never seen deer go after yucca like that though.

    During antler season I tent potential target plants with branches stuck firmly in the ground tied together at the top. For extra protection on small trees, I wind wire in and out. It’s a natural, nearly invisible, cage and the deer have left those plants alone so far. One nice esperanza got shredded this year and I hope it will grow back next spring.

    That sounds nicer looking than chicken or hog wire, S. Fox. I should give that a try. —Pam

  9. Sylvia McCormick-Wormley says:

    Hi Pam – this is my time tested best solution to avoid and prevent deer damage…. http://www.bennersgardens.com/ as a place to start.
    Virtually invisible deer fencing. I learned how to use it gardening in Westlake by Lake Austin where there are herds of deer who really menace people, dogs, and landscapes. At first a very stict Westlake homeowners association tried to make my client take it down but backed down once I assured them it was a temporary barrier to retrain the deer to use another path and that it could not be seen once you are a few feet away.

    It works best in wooded areas where the trees can serve as fence posts for the most part. It really disappears then. One of my clients did not follow thru with her promise to complete a side yard portion of the fence enclosure and I experienced the very unpleasant sight of a full grown buck running straight at the fence (which they can not see because it is totally black when installed properly). He bounced off it like a trampoline and was unhurt. I admonished her once more to completely enclose the space or I would take it all down. Deer will follow the fence line for miles until they find a way to get in and you do not want to come nose to nose with a huge, startled, and cornered wild animal….dangerous especially to elderly dogs. In Austin, coyotes also hunt the deer and will just as happily go after your pet if drawn to the area.

    Virtually invisible deer fencing is the perfect remedy to preserve a view, protect your property, plants, animals and self. Best of all, it’s much cheaper than conventional fencing and never requires maintenance like painting or staining. I’ve gone thru many design issues due to local soil and other conditions so no one Deer Fence kit will work in Austin. The fencing can be combined with other fencing if desired for aesthetic reasons. Call me and I will give suggestions should you want to use this. A couple of weeks ago I saw a small kit of the fencing in our local Home Depot. Of course there was no info. on how to use it and I can promise there is much to learn to work effectively…..those darn deer are very wily! Order the fence installation video as a place to start your education from Benners Gardens website. I installed many of these fences successfully for Austin clients who were at their wits end. I wouldn’t dream of planting a garden even here in Georgia without it because there are lots of friendly neighborhood deer here too. Best of luck.

    Great suggestion for appropriate areas, Sylvia. Thanks for sharing your knowledge of this type of deer fencing. I’ll keep it in mind for clients who live in heavily wooded neighborhoods.

    Unfortunately, this solution won’t work in my case because this is in my front yard, in a typical suburban neighborhood (that backs up to a large greenbelt), and I have a circular drive that surrounds three-quarters of the bed in question. We can’t fence off our driveway entrances obviously. (A gated driveway is not financially feasible.) The front yards in my neighborhood are not wooded but typical lawns with foundation shrubs and one or two shade trees, which can’t be fenced off from the deer except in back. I hope to eventually remove all my front lawn and replace it with a deer-resistant garden, but it is frustrating to find that antler damage occurs even on plants deer don’t like to eat. —Pam

  10. Donna says:

    What a catch. They are usually wary in front yards and are quick to scatter. Sadly they do so much damage, but do make nice photos. We as Master Gardeners are always giving out deer advice, but to tell you the truth, the deer get wise to most deterrents and fencing. My friend and coworker raises deer on a tree and shrub nursery farm. Deer smorgasbord, but he has solved the problem. But it is not feasible for homeowners. I talked about deer on my blog, and again, not a lot of solutions if you live in suburbia. Even plant selection is also hard because when hungry, they eat just about anything you plant. Cornell Cooperative Extension has plant lists and deterrents listed and test are being run constantly on their test farms. Check their site. I have some of their info on my site too.

    The deer are pretty bold at this time of year. My daughter opened the door at daybreak this morning and called out that a herd of deer were in the front yard. I went to get my camera, walked over to the car and leaned around it to shoot these images. The buck saw me and held his ground. I kept the car between us so as to give us some cover just in case he was feeling aggressive. Six or seven does were standing just out of the frame, browsing for acorns in the grass—or do they eat grass? I don’t know. On the drive to school, I had to stop twice as groups of deer crossed the road. They own this neighborhood.

    I’m very familiar with deer-resistant plants for our area. But as you point out, they’ll eat just about anything when hungry enough. —Pam

  11. chuck b. says:

    Booo! Hisss!

    You said it, Chuck. —Pam

  12. Noooo! I’d have skipped the camera & picked up a broom to chase the miscreants off. I hope the repellent works, but if they aren’t eating anything, I’m not sure if the smell alone will be enough to drive them off. I’d recommend a Scottish deerhound.

    That sounds like just the ticket. Sic ‘em! —Pam

  13. Caroline says:

    Hey! You kids get off Pam’s lawn! I saw a ginormous possum scurrying through our back yard this morning, on its way to its hidey hole under our shed.. Unfortunately I was too slow to snap a single shot. I have to remind myself that they were here long before we were. At least the possums don’t seem to bother my garden, from what I can tell; not so with the deer.

    You tell ‘em, Caroline! Actually, I don’t think the numbers of deer in NW Austin were here before we were. We’ve created predator-free deer habitat that they have willingly filled. We’ve messed up the natural balance, and there is nothing to keep deer populations in check. —Pam

  14. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    The handsome brute. Aren’t you glad your back garden is fenced. I could just see them eating your water plants and drinking out of your water feature. UGH… Yes, you will have to tell Santa to bring you a gallon of deer repellant.

    Yes, I’m very careful to keep the back garden gates closed, Lisa. They walk the back fence line every evening. —Pam

  15. Kacky says:

    I am with you- not a fan. Love them in the wild; in the garden, at the nursery, not so much….

    Yes, if only they’d stay in the greenbelts, harmony would be ours. Alas, they love suburban lawn habitat. —Pam