March 16, 2010

The iZap

Our house was built right smack in the middle of a deer thoroughfare that runs from a pond in a wooded area below us, up to the treed area to the northwest behind us.  Deer live by habit, and there is nothing that we can do to re-route our herd around my deliciously landscaped yard.  They always have to follow the same paths.  Pond, meadow, yard, trees.  Sometimes they go trees, yard, meadow, pond.  But they always have to navigate diagonally right through our half acre to get where they're going, and the fact that we put such tasty vegetation right on their route just delights them.

I've tried all the remedies everyone else has used, from predator scents (what predators?  They don't know what one is supposed to smell like because there haven't been any in our part of the world for decades) to vile rotten egg sprays, to plastic tubes that looked like this and made me feel as though we lived in a natural gas pipe field:
 
Wrapping each and every tree and shrub is impossible and unsightly.  Perimeter fences, either electric or 12 foot high barriers, are equally out of the question.  Motion-triggered water sprays aren't practical in the winter here, and would litter the landscape with hoses everywhere.  I really needed another way.

The solution: Wireless deer zappers that deliver a mild electric shock on contact.  They are one foot high plastic stakes that hold two AA batteries, which last for a year.  At the top of the stake is a clear plastic saturated scent lure.  The deer smells it, wanders over, licks it, and gets a surprise.  It's not harmful... I've touched it myself and it made me jump and say a bad word, but it doesn't hurt.  Although I didn't actually put my tongue on it. 

 
You may not want to use these if children or pets play in your yard.
Last summer I put 12 stakes all around the paths that the deer regularly take on their route through our yard and open meadow.  You need a lot, it's not a fence, and although there is a smell lure, they kind of need to stumble across a stake in their browsing.  Over the summer I saw several very deep hoof marks going every which way near the stakes, showing a deer had bounded away in alarm.  At least that's my forensic evaluation of the tracks in the mud.

You don't protect plants with these, instead you modify the routes the deer take amidst all your plantings.  I think they are working.  In past winters my China Girl hollies (ilex meserveae) always got pruned by the hungry deer into such raggy shapes.  For 3 years, this is what I had every spring:
I put stakes near them last winter, and had no damage at all when I looked this spring.

This week I gathered up all the stakes to replace the batteries and put them back out in slightly different locations for novelty and surprise.  I found 11 of the 12 stakes.  The last one?  Gone to where the lonely socks from the dryer go?  Taken by the deer for study and examination to figure out how they work?  Lying on its side in the mud right in front of me where I'm likely to step on it and get my toes zapped?  Where could it be?

I don't know if the deer will figure out it's only the green stakes that shock them, and learn to eat around the zappers.  For now the deer seem to be wary of their normal route through my yard, and the stakes are pretty inconspicuous in the landscape, especially as plants grow and fill in.

Wireless technology to combat deer: it's just so 21st century.  I call them iZaps... I'm sure you'll be able to get them soon from iTunes. 

13 comments:

  1. How deviously clever those contraptions are. Personally I would rather step on one and be zapped than the deer take them away for study.

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  2. Watch out, those deer are pretty sneaky, they are going to come back with an iHuman, yikes!

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  3. I am always open to good ideas to keep the varmints out of my flowers. They are so thick here. Thanks for the product info.
    Lona

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  4. Sweet bay and Deborah, now I am worried about those deer outsmarting me. And an iHuman is just about the scariest thing I could think of!!

    Hocking Hills, thanks for visiting. I love your nature blog; such beautiful pictures!

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  5. Whoa, Laurrie, I was afraid you were going to say you had licked one of those! That would get a whole load of bad words, one assumes. Your name for this gizmo is great, and good deal that they saved your holly. Way to figure out a solution to a difficult problem. Do they make them for voles? :-)
    Frances

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  6. Glad you found an alternative to the pipe field! LOL :)

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  7. Hmmmm....deer in the lab testing this thing out - scary!

    (I'm glad it's working for you.) :)

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  8. Frances, No way I'm putting my tongue on one of these! I do wish there was a zapper for rabbits and voles, they are a plague too.

    Kyna and Garden Ms. S, thanks for the chuckles over this. We all go to such silly lengths to deter the varmints. They must be laughing at us.

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  9. Laurrie,

    Thanks for visiting my blog! And I'm glad I visited yours. I had declared to Garden Man that I was DONE with gardening in the back, because we have a herd of 15 deer that come through every day. My hydrangeas are gone and my cryptomeria is ripped to shreds and I'm heartbroken. So where can I get these wonderful deer zaps? I need them!

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  10. Kim, click on the wireless deer zappers link just above my photo of the stake in my garden. Or google Wireless Deer Fence. That's where I mail-ordered mine. They're expensive, so be prepared. I'm enjoying discovering your blog!

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  11. I get a lot of questions as a Master Gardener about how you keep deer from eating your plants. We tell them to plant varieties of plants that deer don't like. There are a few. I like your idea. I will have to investigate whether they are available in Canada though. Thanks for sharing. Valerie

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  12. Valerie: Since we are on an established deer path, they eat everything they pass, there are almost no "deerproof" plants here! I'm enjoying reading about your sandy challenges.

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  13. I share your frustration about seemingly living in a kind of "deer thoroughfare," as I deal with the same thing.

    But aren't those izaps about as unsightly as the tape around the trees? I wonder if they sell they tree trunk wrap in a more natural looking tan or brown color to better blend in with the environment.

    My own response to heavy deer browsing is fencing lots of individual shrubs until they get big enough (takes years) for deer to leave them alone. While your yard looked like a natural gas field, I often felt mine looked like a concentration camp, with fencing everywhere (still does).

    I've given up growing certain things, like those China Girl holly that yes, the deer here heavily browsed each year until i figured they'd always be stunted. I gave them away to a gardener not plagued by deer.

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