Spring is around the corner and so are the deer.
“When spring greens up, leaves are out, and when it’s time to start cutting grass again, it’s time to start being alert because deer become very active,” said Scott Peters, wildlife management supervisor for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, based out of Akron.
And this year has been so mild that naturalists are expecting a boom in the deer population.
Deer shift locations based on food resources and to allow does to stake out fawning territories as they prepare to give birth.
“Drivers need to be extra careful and cautious at dusk and dawn when the deer tend to be the most active,” Peters said.
Next to the fall breeding period, spring is a very close second for deer-related vehicle crashes and landscape and garden damage.
In Lorain County, there were 537 crashes reported in 2015, of which 36 included injuries, according to statistics from the Ohio Department of Public Safety. The numbers were highest in November but began to increase again in April, May, and June. There are no statistics compiled yet for 2016.
“When you come across a deer and you are driving, check your surroundings,” said Lt. Carlos Smith of the Ohio State Highway Patrol Elyria Post. “If you see one deer, there are usually more around. Slow down. You don’t want to make any abrupt movements. The best thing to do is a gradual, slow, hard, controlled brake. Never, under any circumstances, should you swerve to miss a deer because chances are you will make the accident a lot worse.”
Aside from the roads, deer can wreak havoc on gardens, Peters said: “Deer, just like people in a sense, like variety in their diet.”
That means they’ve had enough of the twigs they’ve been nibbling off trees and shrubs during the winter and it’s now time to go for the tasty, fresh greens. Those include things like wildflowers such as trillium and wild geraniums or they might move on over to the landscaping and plow right through your hostas.
“It only takes one or two deer to decimate a very small garden,” Peters said.
Deterrents can be purchased such as sprays. Some people plant marigolds, but others prefer fencing to stop the leaping animals. There is mixed success with motion-activated scarecrows.
Peters suggests electric fencing, which is conveniently solar-powered. “Exclusion is the best,” he said.
You might have to spend a couple hundred dollars for the fencing but it will protect your investment in the long haul, he said.
In the southern part of Lorain County, deer can roam the bigger farms and wood lots. Farmers may hire out hunters or lease out their land for people to hunt the deer, which keeps the population down.
However in the northern, more populated areas of the county that are not open to hunting, deer are more abundant because the communities become literal refuges for the animals, said Peters.
And while some people are getting ready to plant their gardens, this is also the time of year people actually seed their land to actually lure deer.
Scott Jackson, assistant manager at Farm and Home Hardware in Wellington, explained the love-hate relationship his customers have with deer. “There are two different types of people: those that like to feed the deer to watch them, and those that feed the deer so they get them used to coming into the property for hunting purposes,” he said.
There’s no hunting now, but Jackson sells mineral licks, salt blocks, seeds, and attractants flavored with molasses and other delicacies to get deer used to coming to feed in a particular place.
Spring is an important time of year to plant a food plot or garden for the deer. Seed turnips, clover, and sugar beets are all-time deer favorites.
“They will eat out of it all spring and summer and there is a fall food plot you would plant as well, it’s like an all-year garden,” Jackson said.
Meanwhile, he said there is a third type of person: gardeners who want to know what type of fence to put up and what products to use to keep the deer away. “Flower gardens they love to eat and they’ll eat the hostas right up,” he said.
Down at Findley State Park, 839 forested acres are a haven for the deer and deer lovers, said Karla LaChance. “People come here wanting to see wildlife. They love it.”
Catherine Gabe can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @ReporterGabe on Twitter.
Photos by Catherine Gabe | Wellington Enterprise
Deer will be out in larger numbers as spring weather warms up, so be alert and be aware.