I live in a suburban neighborhood, and pride myself on my small garden of tomatoes and herbs. We occasionally have had deer in the past, but never very often. Last year, though, a new neighbor moved in and began feeding the deer in his backyard. He purposely puts out bowls of maize and wheat. There are no fences in our area, so the deer eventually walk 15 feet over into my garden and have my tomatoes plants for dessert. I’m also worried that rats and other critters are attracted to the food source. Can I force him to stop feeding the deer?
Deer can be a tricky issue between neighbors, because different people view them in different ways. Some see deer as cute, intelligent, Bambi-esque pets; others see them as destructive pests, barely above rats or moles on nature’s pecking order.
While some states, like New York, have implemented strict regulations against feeding deer, many others have not. Many urban areas also ban feeding squirrels, pigeons, or rats, to prevent their reproduction and spread. To find out, do a quick online search, or check with your state wildlife department.
If you live in a state without such regulations, what can you do? First, keep calm and don’t overreact, like the Minnesota man who allegedly shot his neighbor for feeding deer. As noted, this is an issue of perception; your neighbor likely believes he’s making the neighborhood better by attracting his bushy-tailed friends, while you believe he’s making the neighborhood worse.
How can you both live in peace? First, try approaching your neighbor calmly to ask about his intentions. See if, indeed, he is a “die-hard” deer fan, as many people are, or whether he simply didn’t realize the effect his actions were having on your garden. Some neighbors really do want to keep the peace, and will stop when asked.
Should he refuse to simply stop, you might suggest the construction of a fence around your garden. Since there are no fences between your properties, a tall wooden fence around your plants might be the best option (keeping in mind that deer can jump several feet!). Suggest that you would be happy to organize the construction of such a fence so that you could both live in peace – but suggest that he shoulder 50% of the cost. Your neighbor is likely to be sympathetic to this sort of reasonable offer. He gets his deer, you get your plants in safety, and everyone wins.