Deer: the Problem is Bigger than Our Gardens

Deer are an increasingly difficult problem in this region. Even if fences and sprays were effective; even if everyone planted only “deer-proof” species; even if there were no traffic accidents or cases of Lyme disease, deer herds in the woods—like those we see along the Saw Mill Parkway, on Mountain Road, and throughout the Rivertowns—are destructive to our region and our planet.

In the fragile ecosystems of the woodlands that surround and weave through our suburban areas, the deer are eating and/or have destroyed the lowest growing plants and shrubs, including  tree seedlings. This is upsetting the balance of nature—of animal, insect and bird life—and is preventing regeneration of the forests, which are responsible through the carbon cycle for creating the very air we breathe.

Two recent speakers at Garden Club of Irvington events have educated members about this issue:

Carolyn Summers, a landscape architect and adjunct professor at Westchester Community College, is a local expert on biodiversity. She writes in Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East, “Instead of a sustainable number, perhaps ten or twenty deer per square mile, surveys are revealing population densities in the hundreds. Deer are eating themselves out of house and home. In the process, they are leaving little or nothing for other forms of wildlife, including the plants that support us all.”

Dr. Doug Tallamy, professor and chair of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware, and author of Bringing Nature Home, agrees: “The deer are above their carrying capacity—that is, the herds are larger than the land can support—because we have killed all their predators.  We have also created their favorite edge habitat, our gardens. In many places, the only plants the deer have left in our forest understory are invasive, unpalatable species. Our forests may appear to be healthy, but there is no recruitment; that is, the next generation of trees is being destroyed.”

One of our members offers the following poem about this subject:


Deer Update

by Harriet Holdsworth

Oh deer, oh deer
Oh yes, my dear,
The deer are here.

Three, four, five, six,
Are my eyes playing tricks?
No, right here in my back yard,
To see them isn’t very hard.

Devil’s footprints in the snow
Just to let you know
Where they come and where they go.

Little piles of raisins on the lawn
Being laid from dusk to dawn.

A rose is a rose is a rose
And as everyone well knows.
The prickles and thorns of bright rose hips
Don’t bother their avaricious lips.

Devil’s footprints in the mud
Nipping all that’s in the bud.

It’s been many a year
Since a tulip’s bloomed around here.

Shredded shrubs and trimmed-up trees
And worst of all, oh please, oh please,
They carry ticks with Lyme disease.
Oh, oh, my aching knees!

Bambi lovers and devil deer
You should know where you can go…
Not here!
Not here!


Filed under Conservation

5 responses to “Deer: the Problem is Bigger than Our Gardens

  1. Cathy Ludden

    Excellent article and a timely reminder of a serious ecological problem. We must push our town governments to begin effective controls now.

  2. Pru Montgomery

    I’d love to see this poem published in the Enterprise!



    Here is another stanza, by “Anon”

    Keeping them out of gardens we tend
    Will not, alas, the destruction mend.
    They’re bringing our forests to an end.
    Deer eat underbrush, seedlings, plantlets
    Ruining the ecosystem of the planet.

  4. Renee Shamosh

    I would love to see this message sent to as many “Bambi” lovers as possible. People do not realize what a real problem this is.

    Renee Shamosh

  5. Deborah Hawes

    Thou shalt not kill. There are many non lethal deer controls. Fencing, for one. Dogs, obvious. How about this, the deer, a living, breathing, sentient being that feels joy, love, and pain, just like a dog or cat, has just as much a right to life as you, and your beloved pet. The Humane Society of the United States recommends nonlethal immuno-contraceptive darting for deer control, a method developed by the USDA. It is currently in use in many places, such as Bald Head Island, NC, Fripp Island, SC, and Irondequoit, NY, among others, and is 95% effective.

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