Think of her as a conflict-resolution specialist — except that at least one party in most every dispute that Marne A. Titchenell of The Ohio State University negotiates is a four-legged, fur-bearing individual stubbornly disinclined to negotiate.
“In the past week alone,” said Ms. Titchenell, whose official title is wildlife program specialist, “I have answered skunk, groundhog, bat, vole and mole questions. And, of course, ones about deer.”
Ms. Titchenell’s primary professional role is educating Ohioans about wildlife ecology, biology and habitat management. When she lectures to gardeners, farmers or the nursery industry, she asks for a show of hands (virtually these days) from the audience when she names challenges they have faced. Then she runs through photos of animals that in backyard or agricultural settings may be referred to as “nuisance wildlife.”
Benner’s Gardens), reinforced with wire and flagged.
Around smaller garden areas, a solid stockade or mesh fence of perhaps five feet may suffice. Deer hesitate to jump into areas they cannot see into, or into confined areas where they fear they may be trapped.
Electric fences do not exclude animals, although they can modify behavior with negative reinforcement. But with any electric fence, the wires must be kept clear of vegetation or the current will be interrupted.
One electric fence that Ms. Titchenell recommends for low to moderate deer pressure is the peanut-butter fence, a simple design of one or two strands of 17-gauge wire — one at about 30 inches, or wires at about 10 to 12 and 30 to 36 — with the added enticement of a lure, plus flagging. Strips of aluminum foil dabbed with tempting peanut butter are crimped and strung or taped on the upper line. Some gardeners bait prefabricated rolls of electrified rope or net fencing this way (from sources like Premier 1). In either case, the deer get the message when contact is made with a nose or tongue.
Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance, from Rutgers University’s New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. The most resistant category there is “rarely damaged.” Next comes “seldom severely damaged,” then “occasionally severely damaged” and “frequently severely damaged.”
But regional preferences differ, so even a tool that comprehensive cannot be all things to all gardeners. (Here are some sample lists from other regions.)
“Deer are a challenging species to manage,” Ms. Titchenell said, “one that requires patience and persistence on the gardener’s part. Understanding how to best use the available tools, remaining vigilant and working to bring damage down to a tolerable level are the best strategies one can take.”