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Deterring deer

Two berry growers share methods for their success

April 18, 2008  ByMarg Land


Jack Dekok had tried just about
everything to keep hungry deer out of his berry patch – rotten eggs,
human hair, sweaty clothes, flares, noise makers, spray soap, small
flags (to mimic deer tails). Some worked, others didn’t and none were
long-term.

Two berry growers share methods for their success

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Jack Dekok

Jack Dekok had tried just about everything to keep hungry deer out of his berry patch – rotten eggs, human hair, sweaty clothes, flares, noise makers, spray soap, small flags (to mimic deer tails). Some worked, others didn’t and none were long-term.

Meanwhile, the deer damage continued. In one season alone, the four-legged marauders caused $4,000 in losses at the Dekok’s Kanata-area farm. Jack and his wife Mary were even advised to put an eight-foot chainlink fence around the farm.

Luckily, a little research resulted in a cheaper idea. Working from a solution reported in a paper out of the University of Wisconsin, Jack and Mary decided to install an electric fence around their berry fields. It started out as a three-strand fence using tape plus aluminum foil soaked in peanut butter, providing a good shock on the nose for curious deer. Over time, it has grown to a five-wire fence which is kept up year-round. The top wire is still webbed electrical tape while the second wire carries the power.

“It has dramatically decreased deer traffic,” explained Jack during the Ontario Berry Growers’ Association’s recent annual meeting.

Besides installing the fence, Jack also invited professional hunters to patrol his farm during hunting season and has utilized deer removal permits from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

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Mike O’Brien 

“I recommend building a relationship with the MNR,” he advised. When wildlife problems and damages occur on your farm, let them know, he added.

The fence cost the Dekoks about $2,000 to surround 10 acres. Maintaining it costs an additional $150 per year and about 50 man hours.

Mike O’Brien of Bayfield Berry Farms has also wrestled with deer damage in his blueberry and saskatoon berry orchards. He went with a solution similar to the Dekoks but from a more permanent angle. Mike and his wife Marlene arranged with a contractor to install an eight-foot-high barrier fence around 27 acres of their farm, which is located near the shore of Lake Huron between Bayfield and Goderich. Each of the fence posts is concreted into the ground and every 48 feet, a 30-foot high pole was used, providing anchor sources for the possibile installation of bird netting in the future. The fence was erected as tightly as possible to the edge of bush property on the sides of the O’Briens’ field “so the deer can’t get a run at it.” And the page wire has been so tightly applied that any deer that misjudges the fence bounces right off it with little or no injury.

While Mike is currently using gates for access to the field, he hopes to install cattle guards, which are bridges over a ditch consisting of parallel metal bars that allow pedestrians and vehicles to pass but not cattle or other split-hoofed animals. These guards will allow him easier mechanical access to his orchards without the need to worry about opening and closing gates.

Mike admits his solution was “not cheap.” The fence cost the farm $7 per linear foot. But he adds that expense can be offset over the life of the fence, which is expected to be 25 to 30 years.


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