Coexisting With Deer

Addressing deer conflicts

Montclair Township’s relationship with wildlife

Montclair Township believes in and follows a policy of peaceful coexistence with wildlife. Co-existing means allowing animals to live their lives out safely, while still addressing any wildlife-human conflicts with humane, innovative, and non-lethal approaches.  Many of us moved to Montclair to live in a more nature-based environment that is close to urban areas. As such, we can expect to encounter wild creatures who also call our town home.  Therefore, learning to accept, appreciate and co-exist is necessary.

 Trapping and relocating wildlife or killing wildlife is ILLEGAL, ineffective, and goes against the values of our township.

Montclair Township Animal Control is your go-to first call for information on local wildlife, and to resolve any issues that may arise. You can reach Animal Control 24/7/365 by calling 862-621-9113. 

Montclair Township is also part of the Humane Society of theUnited States’ Wild Neighbors Program. The program goal is to reduce and resolve wildlife-human conflicts humanely. 


Some people assume there are "too many deer" when they experience a conflict in their yard, yet the reality is that deer conflicts may be totally unrelated to their numbers and can be addressed using strategic habitat (yard) management strategies and tools developed and tested for our urban/suburban environment.

The tools described here are effective in deterring and excluding deer so we can enjoy our garden and plants - peacefully co-existing with deer. We include specific strategies that Montclair residents have found effective.

1)    Landscape strategically

Deer damage can be reduced, and in some cases eliminated, by thoughtful landscape design focusing on the selection and placement of plants.

Often the solution is simply managing your yard and their habitat differently. Dr. Oswald Schmitz professor of population and community ecology with Yale University suggests planting things that deer like away from the garden area you want to protect. “Provide these alternative food sources by allowing them to grow outside your garden”, Schmitz recommends. “What you’re doing is actually moving the deer around your landscape yourself and deflecting the herbivory away from the plants that you really like.”

Montclair Township’s own Animal Control Supervisor, Michele Shiber, follows these principles. She shares “If you create an edible garden in a separate part of the yard, the deer and groundhogs and other animals are likely to stay away from the rest of your garden. I suggested this to my neighbor and it worked!”

Nancy Lawson, The Humane Gardener, did a deep dive into this approach in her own garden and documented her findings in her article “Deer eat my garden and it flourishes” as well as on providing information on her website, on webinars, and many published articles.  She quotes Dr. Schmitz who explains “My strategies for coexistence with deer are creative applications of principles already known to scientists, but “these kinds of things have never really been tried from a gardener’s perspective.”

2)    Adjust what you plant. Deer-resistant plants.

Gardens and landscape

What is attracting the deer? Where it is planted? Replace hard-hit flowers and other plants with more deer-resistant annual and perennial native plants. Many native plants, especially herbaceous ones, are not tasty to deer and are great for attracting pollinators and birds. Rutgers publishes a very helpful list as does the Native Plant Society of New Jersey.

Alternative plantings

Landscapers who use humane gardening techniques mix deer attracting plants among deer repelling plants. The deer typically leave the repelling plants alone. Most pollinator plant species are the ones the deer despise, so they aren’t usually touched at all. 


“Buck rubs” happen during the fall when male deer rub their antlers against tree trunks. They do this in order to leave scent and visual markings that declare their presence, release hormonal tension, and bulk up neck and shoulder muscles.

These rubs can be prevented by wrapping trees with any commercial product sold for that purpose or placing corrugated plastic sleeves around them. Erecting a temporary fence surrounding vulnerable trees (usually smaller, two- to three-inch-diameter trees that stand alone) or surrounding them with two-inch garden stakes that deflect any rubbing.

If you take a stroll through Yantacaw Park or Brookdale Park you will see thriving young trees using these protections.

Vegetable Gardens

Often it is the groundhog or squirrel or rabbit or skunk that causes the most damage to edible gardens, especially in Montclair. With deer, the deterrence is much simpler. Placing a temporary fence around your vegetable garden is the best way to deter them. (See some options in #4 below)

You can see this strategy in action at Edgemont Elementary School. Deer had been nibbling at the edible garden. An 8-foot fence was installed around the garden - then the deer munching halted. They also planted a pollinator garden with deer-resistant pollinator plants. This pollinator garden did not have a fence or use any deer deterrence tools. However, due to the nature of the plant species, deer avoided this plot and the plants were untouched.

Here are some great resources:

3)    Deer-resistant repellents

Deer are extremely wary animals who avoid places where they feel threatened or insecure. A variety of products (including some homemade remedies) can repel deer. The suggestions below were compiled from Montclair residents:

       Hire a service that uses natural spray repellents:

   Montclair residents use: natural spray service. This is a safe and convenient method of deterrence.

“My cousin’s business specializes in deer control. They use a natural spray that is harmless to people and pets but works great to repel deer.”

   “We have found to work! We have almost an acre, unfenced, and I have seen a huge change. They come once a month and spray the things in your yard that the deer eat.””


       Other options. Montclair residents share:

   “Do it yourself. Use a product called Liquid Fence. It’s a spray application. We use it with great success. It’s about $30 a gallon.”

   Bobbex works well regularly sprayed on the plants they eat. This year I just threw some netting over my hydrangeas, hostas and yew and that seems to be a deterrent.”

   “I used that liquid deer repellent. DeerBGone. Smells like sulfur and eggs. You need to reapply it after a big rain. It worked very well!”

   “I bought deer scram and sprayed it, seems to be working.”

   “I used to use little cheese cloth bags full of blood meal attached to branches inside of bushes and had great luck.”

   I use Deerstopper once a month like clockwork. It works.”

   “This year we sprayed Bobbex on the plants they like the most (e.g., hostas, tulips) every 3-4 weeks and saw a major improvement over last year.”

       Throwing netting over certain plants is a good deterrent: “This year I just threw some netting over my hydrangeas, hostas and yew and that seems to be a deterrent.”


4)    Deer Scare Tactics

Motion-activated sprinklers work at scaring deer away. Residents and experts suggest:

o   Motion-Activated Sprinkler - Yard Enforcer | Orbit Irrigation – OrbitOnline

o   Scare Crow Motion Detected Animal Repellent

attaches to a garden hose. When a deer comes into its adjustable, motion-detecting range, a sharp burst of water is sprayed at the animal. The combination of physical sensation and a startle effect provide effective aversive conditioning.

o   The Havahart Spray-Away Elite Motion Detector is similar in action to the Scarecrow, yet is hose-free and solar powered. This device uses infra-red technology to detect animal movement.

o   The Havahart 5250 Electronic Deer Repellent consists of 3 stakelike devices and a scent lure. Deer are attracted to the lure and then receive a mild electric shock when they reach it.


5)      Good fences make good deer neighbors


Deer may prefer a certain area of town due to its proximity to a water source for drinking or other factors. Folks living in those areas are more likely to see them.  In this case, the most effective and permanent way to protect landscape plants is with fencing, or to limit plantings to species that are most resistant to deer browsing.


Fence around your garden: A deer fence usually consists of a tall fence mesh (6 feet tall to 10 feet tall) engineered to keep deer in or out of an area. The lower height deer fencing is often used to surround shrubs like arborvitae from being eaten by deer. This shrub type of fencing is typically seasonally removable and inexpensive. Critterfence is a great source and here is their deer page.


Fence around your yard: Typically it is best to install an 8 foot fence. There are also creative ways that you can amend a 4 foot fence to prevent deer from jumping.

A Montclair resident shares: “I have a solid wooden fence and never have deer in the yard unless I leave the gate open.”


6) Slow down during rut season - October - December

Montclair has very few driving conflicts with deer. The best approach is to slow down at dusk and dawn and during rut season (October to December). At these times deer are more frequently on the move. Slowing down during these times will avoid issues.

7)Don’t feed deer!

Feeding will just attract them to your yard and neighboring yards. It is illegal to feed wildlife in Montclair as per Ordinance 82-37. You will be fined for violating this law. 



More Facts About A Misunderstood Animal


The Truth about Deer and Lyme Disease

       Humane Society of the United States explains: “New scientific research shows that Lyme disease incidence, and human health risks, are affected more by the abundance of the larval tick’s host (white-footed mice and chipmunks) and the food resource those small hosts rely on (acorns) than by the abundance of deer.”

      Other Sources of information:

       Cary Institute’s Tick Project (partners include the CDC) says that deer have “gotten a false rap”. The white-footed mouse and abundant acorn crops are major drivers of recent spikes in infection.

       Washington Post: “Why this adorable mouse is to blame for the spread of lyme disease

       Killing Deer Not the Answer to Lyme Disease”. Harvard’s School of Public Health. After deer kills, said Harvard, Lyme infections “went up.” 

       The Yale School of Public Health reported that the rate of infection was not significantly different before and after deer hunts.

       Research is yielding more surprises: The humble opossum is an “unsung hero” in the battle against the infection. Foxes and other small predators break the cycle of infection.


The Truth about Deer and Biodiversity

When scientists speak about regeneration and biodiversity they are referring to forests. While Montclair is a beautiful, tree-rich community, it does not mimic a forest in its ecology. Claims that deer impact biodiversity are related to forested areas, not urban/suburban areas.

The Humane Society of the United States through its Urban Wildlife program states: “It is easy to point the finger at deer and blame them for our forest growth woes, yet the reality is that forests are affected by many things: Acid rain, insect damage, disease, forest fragmentation, pollutants, loss of soil fertility, animal browsing, invasive and other competing plant species, parasitic organisms, climatic and weather extremes, over-development … and deer. It is vital in addressing deer-human conflicts that we do not use deer as scapegoats for larger and more systemic ecological problems.”