Toby Hemenway hemenway at
Fri Jun 15 13:47:19 EDT 2001

Harold wrote: 

> Living with out a fence brings new challenges and strange ideas:

Indeed. I know someone who connected a motion detector to a small computer
fan that blew up a big dry-cleaning bag with ribbons glued to it. When a
deer approached, the fan kicked on, inflating the bag, and a ghostly
flapping spook rose out of nowhere, terrifying the deer. He moved the device
every few days so they never knew where it was coming from (mule deer get
habituated to most deterrents). He said he had considered attaching a
whistle to it as well. A great idea.

About electric fences:
I've seen several examples of electric fence here in Oregon, 8 feet high
with 8-inch gaps between the wires, where the mule deer take a flying leap
and shoot through the wires while still in the air (a neat trick when a
buck's got a big rack). Since the deer aren't grounded, they don't get
shocked. They teach each other this trick.  My in-laws have a very elaborate
electric fence that is useless; the deer hang out in their now-abandoned
garden. I've also seen where black bear have  grabbed hold of a hot fence,
gotten mad at the shock, and torn the fence down.

My observation, having lived on both US coasts, is that mule deer are far
more aggressive than Eastern white tails. That's not western pride speaking;
I'd gladly trade mulies for eastern white tails and have fewer hassles. I
suspect also that the west's far drier summers prompt the deer to be more
aggressive when foraging: a lush garden surrounded by dry scrubland is just
too tempting.

For a look at my new book on ecological gardening,
Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, visit

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