A couple of years ago, my across-the-street neighbor knocked on my front door at 8 a.m. wearing a raincoat over her nightgown. “Look,” she said, pointing to my next-door neighbors’ front door.
There on the small concrete porch was a tiny newborn deer, its mother nowhere in site. Within a few minutes a small crowd gathered, some people taking pictures, others wondering what the animal would do if its mother did not return. “Don’t worry,” said a voice of authority. “The mother was probably scared away by traffic and voices. She’ll be back, as soon as we leave.” And she was.
After everyone left, I watched from my window as Mama deer made several furtive trips from the backyard to the porch, nuzzling her offspring. On about the fourth trip, the baby rose for the first time on wobbly legs and toddled behind its mother down the hill to the woods. It was the stuff of children’s books.
That baby deer was probably one of the same six-pack that a few months later decimated my hostas and left hoof prints and poo all over our backyard. And it may have been the same deer that later teased our golden retriever to bolt the deck, run through the woods and make a life-threatening dash across Washington Road. (A kindly couple on Sunnyhill grabbed his collar as he dashed across their patio in hot pursuit.) Still, I have a soft spot for that deer and his scroungy family.
Our densely developed suburb clearly is not a good fit for the deer that now share our space. I don’t feed them; I hate the damage they wreak on my garden, and I am well aware that they could jump in front of my car on the highway or even in my own driveway. Still, I’m ambivalent about how to control the deer population, and I think many people feel the same way.
Each year, I dread the inevitable and often unpleasant debate about deer that takes place at commission meetings; the schism in public opinion underlines the fact that Mt. Lebanon is unlikely to be able to address the deer issue in a way that will please every one of our 33,000 plus residents any time soon.
That’s why I welcome professional landscaper Claire Schuchman’s article, page 46. Schuchman has a much more beautiful garden than I shall ever aspire to—and she bemoans the fact that her neighborhood’s resident deer like it as much as she does. Ever practical, however, Schuchman concedes that at least for now the deer are here to stay, and she offers some fairly cheap and easy tips on how to outsmart them, keeping them out of your garden and yard (if that is your goal).
Perhaps in a few years, we’ll border our properties with deer birth control pills, and the deer population will dwindle. Until then, I’m going to try a few of Schuchman’s tricks—I know my I.Q. is at least as high as a deer.
If her ideas work, then I’ll need only to protect my shrubs and flowers from my dog, who likes nothing better than to plop his hot, fat self down on a huge, cool hosta.
Hmmmm, I wonder if the municipality could do anything about that?