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Living with Wildlife in Manitoba


White-tailed Deer

Cities and towns have many natural areas that support white-tailed deer. Urban deer populations benefit from abundant food and shelter. They have few natural predators and bylaws prohibit hunting them within city limits. As a result, urban deer populations have tremendous growth potential.

Deer sometimes damage gardens, shrubs, fruit trees and other public or private property. They can be a threat to human health and safety when they wander onto roadways and collide with vehicles. They can also carry deer ticks, which may transmit Lyme disease to humans.

The challenge is to find an acceptable balance between the number of deer in the city and the associated risk to people and their property.

What You Can Do

To minimize or reduce the damage caused by deer to your property, you may want to consider using one or more of the following techniques:

Don't Feed the Deer!

Although well intentioned, feeding deer can actually endanger their health and survival. There are many reasons why Conservation and Water Stewardship does not recommend feeding deer.

Human Safety and Property Damage

  • Wild animals are dangerous. By feeding wild animals, you may be conditioning them to expect food from people. Deer that lose their natural tendency to avoid people can become a significant threat.
  • Deer can attract predators such as coyotes and wolves. This would increase safety concerns and risk to people and pets.
  • When deer are attracted to homes or farms, the risk for vehicle collisions increases. This can result in numerous deer fatalities, expensive vehicle repairs and human injury.
  • Deer attracted to artificial or supplemental food sources will also feed on neighbours flowers, trees, shrubs or on farmers' hay bales.

Deer Health and Safety

  • A deer's digestive system changes slowly with the seasons. In winter, their system adapts to allow them to digest relatively low quality food like twigs, buds and stems. 
  • Rapid or dramatic changes to this winter diet can lead to bloating, diarrhea, enteritis and in some cases, death.
  • Deer have starved to death with full stomachs in winter because they could not digest high carbohydrate foods like hay, grains, corn and alfalfa.
  • Deer will travel long distances to reach an artificial food source. This may increase exposure to predators and other hazards (ex: increased risk of vehicle collision with more frequent highway crossings).
Overabundance

  • Natural processes limit deer populations to a level where they live in balance with their habitat. Winter mortality is normal in Manitoba. This natural mortality varies from year to year, but helps ensure the deer population stays at, or below, what the habitat can support. 
  • Research shows that providing extra food can raise deer reproduction and survival rates. Deer populations can increase to levels too high for the habitat to sustain causing long-term damage to that habitat. This damage can affect the deer population, vegetation and a wide variety of other wildlife species that depend on the habitat for food, nesting or shelter.

Disease Transmission

  • Deer gathered at artificial food sources have a higher risk of transmitting diseases such as bovine tuberculosis, chronic wasting disease, brucellosis and parasites to one another.

Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship can order people to stop feeding wildlife due to concerns about the health and safety of wildlife, the safety of people or to prevent property damage. Additional enforcement action, up to and including charges and possible fines, may occur if orders issued are not complied with.

Download pdf brochure

Fencing

vegetable garden surrounded by deer fenceFencing yards, vegetable gardens and flowerbeds, or wrapping individual plants and shrubs, are the best methods to prevent deer damage. There are many effective fencing materials including snow fencing, plastic bird netting, burlap or wire mesh (chicken wire) and permanent woven-wire or wood fencing with gates that can provide protection from deer.

Repellents

Repellents help prevent deer from feeding on vegetables, flowers, ornamental shrubs and trees. A wide variety of repellents are available, in two different categories:

  • area repellents which repel by smell, and can be applied near plants and shrubs, and;
  • contact repellents which are applied directly onto plants and shrubs and repel by taste (taste aversion).

The effectiveness of commercial or homemade repellents depends on the number of deer, their feeding habits and weather conditions. Contact repellents are more effective than area repellents. Most repellents must be reapplied on a regular basis to be effective. Property owners should still expect some damage, even when repellents are used.

Deer-smart Landscaping and Gardening

deer relaxing in urban flower gardenDeer are selective feeders that prefer some plants to others. To minimize damage to vegetable gardens, ornamental plants, shrubs and trees, try gardening with plants that deer usually avoid. Some of these include:

  • vegetables — cucumber, onion, hot pepper, sweet pepper, tomato
  • annuals — amaranth, dusty miller, marigold, snapdragon, zinnia
  • perennials — bleeding-heart, chrysanthemum, foxglove, ornamental grasses, lily-of-the-valley, sage
  • woody plants — Colorado blue spruce, common lilac, dogwoods, junipers, pines, paper birch, Russian olive

Scaring Devices

The use of motion-activated devices (ie; lights, sprinklers, barking dogs) and scarecrows may be effective. Other electronic devices such as radios are also effective, but deer quickly become habituated to the noise or action and their effectiveness is short-lived. To prevent habituation and prolong the scaring effect, devices must be regularly moved around the property. Some scaring devices may not be practical in residential areas. Check with your municipal office for by-laws regarding the use of noise making devices in your area.

Deer and Vehicles

There are currently about 300 hundred deer-vehicle collisions on Winnipeg streets each year. These collisions are the major cause of deer mortality in the city. Vehicle damage can be costly and injury to occupants is possible. Wildlife collisions can even cause severe traffic accidents involving more than one vehicle. The frequency of deer-vehicle collisions relates directly to the size of the city’s deer population.

Tips: Most collisions occur between dusk and dawn. Deer also become more active during their breeding season in October through late November. To avoid collisions:

  • drive with caution, especially at night and in the evening and early morning
  • slow down in known deer crossing areas and scan for deer that may be feeding beside the road or attempting to cross
  • if a deer is crossing the road, slow down, dim your headlights and blow your horn to scare it off the road — avoid swerving to prevent loss of control and collision with traffic, and brake hard only if traffic isn’t following close
  • alert other drivers of a deer crossing by flashing your headlights

Further information on wildlife and vehicles, including high risk areas in Winnipeg and rural Manitoba, is available on this website.