We've been told to do the following (all do not work when there are too many deer and we do not recommend them);
Pee on the plant and pee on the fence posts.( We asked these folks to leave. And watched them until they had driven away.)
Large animal (Lion) pee.(It scares the poo out of your animals. Your cat may not come out from under the house for a week or so. If they're hungry, deer wouldn't care if you had a saber toothed tiger in your garden. (I would though. Get a picture!)
Tie bits of your hair to the plants.(You're bald and Bambi still will eat the plant but he may have a whiskers!)
Tie soap to the plants.(Some whole neighborhoods smell like bathrooms. I think Bambi likes the woodsy bars the best. He may be cleaner but he is still eating your plants. Picture a woodsy commercial with Bambi in the shower.) At one of the local botanic gardens there are multiple bars of Ivory soap tied to the mangled, smashed plants that have one or two leaves left. You could find each one amongst the weeds by the drip tubing.
Put yarn on the bushes. Deer apparently can't throw up so they will not eat things like yarn. Really? What's the difference between yarn and a stem or a rock? They manage no to eat those while they're eating your plants....
Build forts around each plant. Ever try to get a 200 lb. deer out of a 5-5' box when he's alive, upside down and terrified? You can build cages. We make a 6' tall 1-2' wide chicken wire circle to slide over the plant. Close the top(this will stop the squirrels). Tie one side to a 't' post(metal fence post), or in bad areas use 3 tee pots or rebar. stakes. (Cut a 20 foot piece of rebar into 3 sections.) After a year or two move the cage to more new plants.
I think the deer sit in the woods and laugh at us.
They go to your watered plants. The less you water the less problems with the gophers. Bait or trap the gophers out of the yard to a perimeter and then control them within that area. It will take 2-3 years before the gopher-runs cave-in and your war is over.(The battles will continue.) Gophers will eat any black poly tubing out there. If you have gopher problems do not use it.(Gopher gum.) Mulch seems to really confuse gophers and can greatly reduce the problems. They will follow inputs of fertilizer, weeds, ruderal plants(vegetables and color annual/perennials) and water.
We like them and have no real problems with them most years (other than the cherry trees). We have had problems with birds at the height of the drought. One of their population controls is normally driven by drought. When the drought was at its height here we had 10-20 or more thrashers fighting over every bug or worm and digging up everything with 20 or more jays fighting above them. For fruit trees foil works a little. Fake owls work for a day or so. The jays will figure out most defenses as you put them in place. We stopped them in the cherries by spraying the tree with a little dish washing soap and hot pepper.(Make sure you wash them off!) The birds are starving during a drought, pray for rain. Do not become part of the problem and feed them. You will attract and support a population that cannot live on its own and has a messed up social system.(It's like putting them in a cage). You go on vacation and birds die. Putting native plants in to provide habitat and food is not a problem and should leave you with a clear conscience. Plant non-natives from Europe if you do want to support European birds.(You can have our starlings, English sparrows and pigeons.) We do not like starlings and try not to help them. For good birds check out our bird page.
If you wish to help things further either leave a few snags(dead branches, tall standing stumps) or dead logs in the background of your property. In towns this may mean tying one up to a back fence, or up on the roof. Harmon et. al. found that 42 species of birds nest in the snags and 20 species in the logs. In the wilds these sites do not need to be closer than every 100-200 ft..
Weeds create habitat for weedy species.
Water or fertilize only if you have to. Do nightly patrols in the spring and summer. We have managed to almost knock them out of the nursery with night patrols and a couple of foxes, foxy-loxy and loxy-foxly. If you have a snail problem do not plant plants from the RIP, FRESH and MEADOW communities along with Erysimum, Stanleya, Oenothera, Lilies and some Clematis. Control the weeds. If you plant only stress tolerant plants the snails will leave or die. They love the 4 inch color stuff form the box stores. Stop feeding the snail gods.
If you have a clean and all native area, keep the cattle out
of it. If you have a weed filled area with some natives, cattle can be
a useful tool to graze against the weeds. Usually you put them in after
the natives set seed or before they've germinated.
You cannot have ostriches and plants.
Chickens and ducks love the mulch. If you have them in a small area or high numbers they will love your site to death. Chickens dig or scratch up everything. The saying about a Bull in a china shop can apply to a chicken in a landscape. Ducks and Geese are much easier to deal with and really only mess the mulch up and eat the tender rare stuff. (They look like little Sherman tanks as they run over your plants. Quack-Quack! on the Attack!)
Wild rabbits eat only the low tender stuff. We have 20 or so wandering around the nursery. (Including some Godzilla jackrabbits that could carry off the dog. Harezilla?) The only native plants they seem to bother are Potentilla and Aster. They love the Filaree, grass, and other weeds. On project sites we have had some problems with Atriplex until it gets above their heads. There is one 50' from the house they eat every night, 200' in from the outer pots... A 4-5' removable cage seems to solve this problem along with turning off the water and planting in winter.
Raccoons love ponds! In search of snack's like your really expensive Koi, they will completely destroy your pond. They have very dexterous hands and can open and pry apart anything. The best way to deal with raccoons is to get a big dog (Sorry small dogs are a tasty dish.) Some of our dogs in the past, have refused to chase things alone when it gets dark. (Chickens in dog suits) When I put my dogs out to chase things they all sit by the front door fighting for the place closest to where it opens. Don't worry to much about the raccoons most domestic dogs are pretty poor hunters. Even Harry the cattle dog has had problems with them. The dogs have a night run behind the house that the raccoons decide to test occasionally. That usually turns out badly for the raccoon. But one morning Harry found one in the office, what a kerfuffle! It sounded like world war three, then the raccoon ran out and Harry has hated raccoons since. His nose looked like it had been put in a pencil sharpener, maybe a hundred bites and claw marks. Next day it had swollen to maybe twice it's normal size, and Harry was depressed. Raccoons can climb trees and hopefully your dog can not. That's what happened to Harry's Raccoon. Of course make sure Fido has his rabies shots!
The other morning one of the sprinkler systems didn't turn off,
discovered that a raccoon had turned it on. At least he didn't poop on
the valve afterwards.
Wood rats are native and they only occasionally cause problems by clipping the tops off of newly planted plants. They behave like a small beaver, cutting their one foot 'trees' down. After a few days, when the 'wood' has dried, they drag it back to their nest, along your car keys, coins and other trinkets.
Norway Rats on the other hand are really nasty. They eat the food on your table, garbage from your can, fruit from your tree, and basically have a nasty party every night. They like ivy berries and other non-native shrubs. I highly recommend ivy as a groundcover if you like rats. If you do not like rats, remove all fruit setting plants and plant a hummingbird or butterfly garden. Remove all water sources and clean the place up. NO debris.
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