Deer Antler Anguish (Or how half a solution can fail much more than no solution at all)

by Tom Gibson

Like most suburban gardeners, I do regular battle with deer.  Over the years I have gradually substituted vegetables deer don’t like (e.g. garlic) for ones they do (e.g. tomatoes).  I have fenced in young saplings whose tender shoots deer have eaten into the ground.  (My young plum tree survived somehow and re-emerged with spreading multiple branches of the type I wanted to cultivate anyway!).  And I jerry-rigged a six foot fence in attempt to block casual walk-throughs.

The latter was my undoing and, far more, that of two full-antlered bucks two weeks ago. For them it was probably the worst experience of their otherwise way too comfortable suburban lives.

The problem was the fence: a combination of wire and fishing line.  The wire was too visible to the deer and the clear plastic fishing line was too weak. The result was that the deer quickly broke through the fishing line and walked through the fence at will.

The ideal short fence, my colleague Elsa Johnson, has kept telling me, is heavy 50 lb-gauge fishing line. Because of the deer’s poor eye sight, it won’t know what’s halting its progress and, confused, it will turn away in another direction.  And the sturdier heavy-gauge fishing line doesn’t break from the initial deer impact.  Installing that sturdier fishing line has been on my project list for at least a year!

But I and my deer friend pests didn’t count on the mating season and new antlers!  Two weeks ago Sunday we found two bucks who had somehow entangled  their antlers in wire fencing. A path they had trod effortlessly as bare-headed adolescents had suddenly become treacherous.  One buck, pawing nervously, was battling a single wire that still provided him a wide circumference in which to struggle.  Eventually, I was able to free it by snipping a wire (at a safe distance!)


The second buck had far worse problems.  It had already snared a large knit hammock in its antlers and that was getting tangled. Six hours later when we returned, it was in even worse shape. It had wrapped itself around the tree until its head abutted (in every sense) the trunk.


Although an early morning call to the Cleveland Heights police had brought no solution, an afternoon call did. A young woman from a private animal control company under contract to the city arrived.  Calmly and professionally, she used wire clippers and a scissor to free the second buck.  The whole process took 45 minutes.

Free at last, the second buck ran off, followed by his little entourage of concerned does.

Neither buck has returned!

Damage to our yard: one black locust tree totally girdled of bark (and doomed to die) and lots of bent fence posts.  Anyone want a well-used hammock?


One thought on “Deer Antler Anguish (Or how half a solution can fail much more than no solution at all)

  1. Har! har! Love “followed by his little entourage of concerned does,” especially. You show great empathy for the young studs and their antler problems. Surrounded by woods as we are, we have plenty of deer, but hardly any unauthorized munching. They aren’t interested in native plants, except for leaves on young shrubs. Your sister.

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