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July 19, 2014 2 min read

Commercial and professional deer repellent products containing chemicals are thought to protect landscapes, crops and gardens from browsing deer through different means such as: fear, pain, and taste. Historically, it was assumed that deer repellent products inducing fear produce odors that are typical of predator activity. These deer repellent products contain ingredients that produce sulfurous odors, such as putrefied egg solids, blood meal, meat proteins, garlic and predator urine.

Repellent products that use pain or discomfort in the mouth or gut, cause deer to develop a conditioned known as avoidance to the product being used. These repellents include products containing hot peppers, such as capsaicin, or ammonia. Taste repellents often make use of bitter chemicals to induce a bad taste, such as Thiram, an extremely bitter tasting fungicide thought to resell deer and rabbits browsing. Recent studies, however, indicate that the repellent of many of these products may be due to food neophobia or otherwise known as the avoidance of new foods.

Application of deer repellent products will depend on the type being used and the method through which it repels deer. Repellents producing pain, foul taste, and conditioned avoidance will typically be applied directly to the plant. These are considered contact repellents. Fear producing repellents fear are considered area or zone repellent products, and can either be applied directly on the plants or around the base of the plant or crop being protected. Studies in University studies have shown that repellents applied directly to plants are the most effective in repelling deer and rabbits.

Repellents may be the method of choice for many commercial or non-commercial users and for people with deer browsing problems. As repellents are labor intensive, due to the need to reapply after periods of precipitation, landowners with larger areas of crops to protect should consider a more economical application method. Choosing a deer repellent containing a sticking agent should be considered.

Basic facts to consider when choosing a deer repellent.

1. Repellents are not fence but do create a barrier resistant to deer and rabbit browsing.

2. Repellents are practical commercial and non-commercial methods to repelling deer and rabbits.

3. Repellents are practical for people experiencing low to heavy deer browsing damage.

4. Landowners may use deer repellents to protect large or small numbers of trees, shrubs or crops.

5. Homeowners desiring to protect gardens, ornamental shrubs and flowerbeds can use repellents as an effective means of repelling unwanted deer.

6. Useful as an emergency control or scheduled repellent for larger commercial growers.

7. Deer repellents should be applied prior to the time of anticipated damage. Stop deer in their tracks before it becomes difficult to control the area.

8. Apply frequently maintain adequate coverage. Re-application is typically necessary depending on the product strength and during peak growth seasons.

9. Sticking agents will extend the effectiveness of deer repellent products.

10. Crops protected by deer repellent require constant monitoring.

Universities have concluded when comparing deer repellent products, those emitting sulfurous odors are generally the most effective. Putrescent egg solid powder has been effective in several comparative trials. Deer browsing is generally eliminated 4 weeks and will provide good protection for 8 to 12 weeks and longer when properly applied.