Deer Damage in The City

Arborvitae showing deer damage, Greenfield neighborhood, Pittsburgh PA, 17 July 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)

Yesterday in Schenley Park when we saw several white-tailed deer quite close to us, I remarked that the deer population is too high for the park.

How can you tell if your neighborhood has too many deer? Take a look at the arborvitae.

Many species of arborvitae (Thuja spp.) are planted as privacy hedges including our native Thuja occidentalis or northern whitecedar.

In the wild and in our yards Thuja trees are a favorite food of white-tailed deer. They browse it from the ground up to the height of their outstretched necks.

When the number of deer is in balance with the landscape, arborvitae have a normal tapered shape. You’d never notice that the deer are eating them.

Normal tapered shape of arborvitae tree (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

When there are more deer than the landscape can handle, their browsing is intense. The trees are cropped close to the trunk — even down to the bark — because the plants can’t replace their branches fast enough.

If your arborvitae trees look like the row shown at top, there are too many deer in your neighborhood, the landscape is out of balance. “Too many” can happen fast. Deer can double their population in just two to three years.

I photographed that row of damaged trees just six blocks from my house. Yes, my city neighborhood has too many deer now. We could protect our trees with netting as described in this video. Or we could give up and never plant arborvitae again.

p.s. There are too many deer everywhere in the eastern U.S., even in the forest. Read more here.

(photo by Kate St. John)

3 thoughts on “Deer Damage in The City

  1. I have had 4 fawns resting in my back yard on a regular basis this summer. Last winter twice 8 deer spent the night in my back yard. This is Forest Hills, not exactly the country.

  2. At our property in Forest Hills, we have a half-grown fawn and it’s mother. A group five hung around all spring. Our planted hostas and newly planted rhododendron — goners.

  3. 2 fawns in my neighbor’s yard early this morning. At first they didn’t even budge, then they got up and cautiously approached me. In the urban landscape, the deer have become increasingly tame. We have woods nearby, but the deer prefer to browse the yard salads. Apparently, they prefer bedding down in the soft grass, too.

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