USU Extension specialist outlines steps to protect yards from foraging wildlife
Many Castle Valley homeowners have experienced the frustration of discovering that trees and plants in their yard stripped of all greenery by foraging wildlife.
"Hungry deer, elk and other wildlife can wreak havoc on plants and trees, seemingly overnight," said Terry Messmer, Utah State University Extension wildlife specialist.
Mule deer are especially fond of hazelnut, Austrian pine, arbor vitae, barberry, cotoneaster and viburnum.
"Utah's foothill bench areas as well as many valley floors are traditional wintering and foraging areas for mule deer and elk," continued Messmer.
The areas in question also provide attractive and highly desired sites for people to build homes and contractors to complete development projects.
Thus, the areas are prime targets for increased human-wildlife conflicts in winter as the animals search for food, explained Messmer.
With proper planning now, the intensity of the conflicts can be managed while at the same time providing habitat for Utah's wintering wildlife and attractive residential landscapes, advised the USU specialist.
At the present time of the year, many Carbon County homeowners are purchasing new shrubs and trees to landscape their yards.
For people who live in an area where elk, deer and other wildlife winter, it is important to be aware of the ornamental plant species that are especially appealing as food sources, advised the USU Extension wildlife specialist.
Messmer offered several recommendations for local residents to consider. The suggestions include:
â¢The best option to mitigate deer and elk damage on yard is to select and plant trees, shrubs and flowers that are either deer resistant or can recover quickly from browsing.
"For this reason, native species such as Gambel oak, chokecherry, hawthorn, sumac and service berry should be considered first since they have evolved under deer browsing pressure and are better adapted to Utah's climate," explained the wildlife specialist.
Other plants to consider incorporating into landscapes that are seldom preferred by deer include several species of maple, ash, blue engleman and blue spruce, holly and narrow leaf cottonwood.
Blending a variety of native and ornamental plants into a home landscape can create a people-friendly environment and provide winter wildlife cover and native browse species that can recover from use.
â¢If people have landscapes that include highly desirable plants that deer and elk have already found, now is the time to also consider other options.
Another way to mitigate browsing by deer and elk is to enclose the area with a fence that is at least seven feet tall.
Fences that are lower or that are made of decorative slats, wood or metal may reduce the damage, but won't eliminate it.
If the snow is deep and the animals are hungry, even good fences won't make good wildlife.
If local residents are experiencing damage throughout the year, fencing remains the best option.
â¢Repellents such as systemic insecticides, human hair, soap and other chemicals, as well as outdoor lighting and artificial noise, aren't reliable.
Hungry animals will ignore repellents to browse available plants.
In winter, thoroughly wrapping plants with both burlap and several layers of plastic netting will work, but it can become costly and time consuming, pointed out the USU extension wildlife specialist.
For additional information on deer-resistant plants, Carbon County residents with Internet access may visit http://wildlife.utah.gov/habitat/deer-browse.php.
Local residents may also contact the Utah State University extension office in Price.
The office is located in the Carbon County Courthouse.