I’ve been hearing of a new kind of garden pest targeting those new spring shoots in the Boars Hill and Cumnor Hill areas of Oxford – deer!
Muntjac deer are a common sight around Oxfordshire, and they’re now often seen in urban gardens in suburban areas close to wasteland or woodland.
It’s straightforward to identify a muntjac – not least because they’re the only breed of deer likely to be breaking into your urban garden. They’re small, stocky and brown in colour, and adult males have short, straight antlers.
Muntjac are a prehistoric species, and aren’t native to Britain. They’ve been around since the early 1900s, when they were imported from China to Woburn Safari Park in Bedfordshire, subsequently escaping into the wild.
Muntjac mostly keep to forested areas, but they can also sometimes be seen in urban gardens, especially in larger, more overgrown gardens that give plenty of cover and back on to woodland or wasteland.
Muntjac are a threat to plant life as they eat low-lying plants voraciously, and can also be a big problem for gardeners. They’re partial to fresh shoots, flowers and vegetables, and will happily strip bark from your lovely ornamental and fruit trees. Laurel shrubs and tulip bulbs are particular delicacies. They can quickly devastate a garden, if left to their own devices.
What can I do to protect my garden?
If you don’t want muntjac to get into your garden at all, you’ll need to improve your fencing, making sure there are no holes or weak areas the deer could get through. Munjac are good jumpers though, and can jump a fence several feet high with no problems. You’ll also need to protect the ground around fence with chicken wire, as muntjac can dig too.
You can protect vegetables and seedlings with strong plastic trellis laid over them and secured with pegs.
A natural deterrent method is to plant lavender around borders, as the strong smell deters muntjac.
One other approach is to offer the muntjac alternative food sources to protect your treasured plants. Fence in plants to prevent them becoming an easy target for the deer and offer them something else that’s easy to get to – muntjac will eat vegetables, carbohydrates like bread and even leftovers from your dining table.
If all else fails, you could look at installing a deer deterrent, like this commercially available one. The noise, light and human voices deter the animals. Or try making your own contraption like this!