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Small deer standing in a raised garden below a fence

How to keep deer out of your garden and other drought-related wildlife tips

Small deer standing in a raised garden below a fence

Salt Lake City — The ongoing drought may lead to more wildlife traveling into Utah neighborhoods in search of food and water. Whether you want to keep the deer from eating all your garden vegetables and flowers or whether you're interested in ways to help wildlife during this hot, dry summer, here are a few things you should know.

Many wildlife species are impacted by the extreme ongoing drought conditions that Utah is facing, particularly deer. The limited availability of food and water can lead to a reduced number of newborn fawns and fewer fawns that survive their first year. The harsh conditions can also reduce the number of huntable buck deer and result in lower overall deer population numbers. Drought can also impact antler growth for buck deer because a sparse food supply provides fewer nutrients, which bucks need to grow antlers. Pregnant does also struggle with the decreased food supply during drought years, and if their body condition is poor during pregnancy, their male offspring may have relatively smaller antlers, even after reaching maturity.

How to reduce conflicts with deer in your garden

In order to find alternate food sources, deer and other big game animals may end up in people's yards or gardens this summer. If you want to try to save your plants and want to minimize any property damage from these wildlife visits, here are a few tips:

  • Building an 8-foot fence around your garden or yard is the most effective method, and is often the only reliable way to keep deer out of your garden.
  • Another fairly effective technique is to install a motion-activated sprinkler.
  • You can also try planting unpalatable vegetation around the perimeter of your garden to deter deer from eating additional plants.

Visit the DWR website for deer-friendly landscaping ideas if you live in an area frequented by big game animals.

Help wildlife during a drought by not feeding them

While some people may want to prevent deer and other wildlife from eating their lawns or gardens, others may be looking for ways they can help hungry and thirsty animals this summer. While it may be tempting to provide feed or water for these animals, it can lead to unsafe situations for the animals and people.

"The best way you can help wildlife is by letting animals stay wild," Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Wildlife Section Chief Covy Jones said. "Don't approach them, and don't try to feed them. These animals have evolved to be able to survive numerous weather conditions and to make it on their own. Often people's good intentions wind up doing more harm than good for the wildlife. It can also be really dangerous when deer, moose or bears become habituated and lose their fear of people."

If you notice deer or elk that look sickly, are injured or are acting aggressively, you should report it to the nearest DWR office. If you encounter a cougar that has killed something in a neighborhood or yard — or it is exhibiting aggressive or threatening behavior — you should report it. If you see a bear in a residential area within the foothills or canyons, you should only contact the DWR if the animal is being aggressive or if it is getting into trash, fruit trees or causing damage. You should definitely report a bear that has wandered into lower-elevation areas and is within city limits or in a heavily-populated area. Visit the DWR website to learn about other common wildlife scenarios where you should contact the DWR.

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