Sunday, March 6, 2011

White Tailed Deer

Depending on who you ask I am sure that you would get a variety of opinions about the white tailed deer in Nova Scotia. If you are someone who enjoys watching wildlife, these are indeed a majestic creature. To a hunter, deer are the source of much thought, planning and effort. Every fall I see a small orange clad army parade past my house to take up encampments in the forest. On the other hand, if you have had the heart pounding experience of slamming on the car brakes as one of these animals crosses the road late at night you may flinch when you see a deer. Worse yet if you did not manage to hit the brakes early enough.

Perhaps the group who would take the least joy in seeing a deer wandering across their property would be gardeners. To a hungry deer a garden must look like a smorgasbord waiting to be devoured. I hear tales of deer resistant plants but, in a particularly snowy winter deer are liable to eat almost anything. When this herd of seven deer crossed our property today one of them stopped to munch on the branches of a cedar tree. I would assume that this is not the best of meals but, I am not a deer.

There also seems to be a growing assortment of products to keep deer out of a garden. When working at a garden trade show in Yarmouth last year I found a booth selling actual wolf urine to use as a deer deterrent. I suppose that the theory is that the deer will smell a predator and stay away. Being of delicate temperament, I chose not to ask how the urine was collected. The mental image of a partially feral human running with the wolves bedpan in hand was enough for me. The unfortunate part about this product in the enclosed space of the arena was that when some unfortunate soul would open the sample an ungodly smell would fill the air. Let me tell you, there is nothing like being repeatedly hit by the smell of wolf urine in the middle of a conversation.

In Annapolis Royal our friends at the Historic Gardens have perhaps had the most experience with deer. Through the years they went through any number of deer abatement techniques. I even remember unconfirmed stories of feces from the cougar at the former Upper Clements Wildlife Park being used around the site. Unfortunately for the Historic Gardens the deer were destroying the product that kept them in business. Without plants and flowers the gardens would, surprisingly, be far less interesting to visit. After finding seven deer feasting in the Governor's Garden one morning the Gardens applied to the Town of Annapolis Royal for help building a tall perimeter fence.

Like the post I recently made on the ring-necked pheasant, the white tailed deer is an introduced species that has thrived in Nova Scotia. Evidently deer were released in the Digby and Halifax regions in the 1890s. This would be contemporary with the busiest days for guided hunting and fishing in Nova Scotia. With an increasing number of "sports" arriving from the New England states, the introduction of deer probably seemed like a natural way to increase hunting opportunities. Of course, the deer thrived and soon spread to all parts of Nova Scotia. Tulips have not been safe since.

All for now,

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