Botanic Garden works to keep deer at bay
Updated: December 19, 2011 10:30PM
The Chicago Botanic Garden runs an “integrated pest-management program” to deal with uninvited visitors from miniscule aphids all the way up to deer.
To prevent deer from destroying its plants, the Glencoe garden uses a combination of fencing, repellents and culling, said Tom Tiddens, the Botanic Garden’s superintendent of plant health care.
The garden has received permits from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to shoot a limited number of deer since as far back as 1986. The IDNR issued permits for the garden to kill up to 12 deer last winter.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service shoots the deer for the garden and last year killed 11. The garden pays for the deer to be butchered and the meat processed so it can be donated to Chicago-area food pantries, as required by the IDNR.
The Botanic Garden applied for and was issued permits to remove another 12 deer this season, but Tiddens has not scheduled the culling yet.
Earlier this year, the deer caused a lot of problems, Tiddens said. In the spring, “they ate a lot of tulips and pansies and completely destroyed some hostas.”
The garden staff is working to restore a 90-acre oak savannah, but one of the biggest obstacles is that the deer like the native wildflowers that are part of it.
Deer damage “can set a research project back years,” Tiddens said.
Unfortunately, the deer don’t favor “some of our worst-weeding plants,” he said.
In the fall, deer destroyed two quaking aspen trees that were planted just the prior spring. The deer caused damage by rubbing their antlers on the trunks.
“They shredded the bark completely on them,” Tiddens said.
When the deer first get their antlers, they like to rub the velvet off, using smaller
diameter tree trunks. Later, they scrape their antlers on the trees to mark their territory, Tiddens said.
During the months the deer are rubbing against the trunks, the garden staff put up plastic mesh fencing around trees or cover the trunks with a paper product the animals can scrape off safely. But this fall, the deer got to the aspens before the staff had installed the protective measures.
To protect its collection, the Botanic Garden replaced a 6-foot fence around the perimeter of its property with a chain-link 8-foot fence.
“They say a startled deer can jump an 8-foot fence, but it won’t be as easy,’ Tiddens said. “We completed it about a year ago.”
The garden also installed a grate at the employees’ entrance. Animals usually are leery of walking on a grate, he noted.
Tiddens said the staff will evaluate the effectiveness of the grate before installing another at the public entrance, where the deer also can enter the garden.
In addition, the staff sprays a variety of deer repellents on plants and bushes.
“We use different kinds because the deer will get used to one smell,” Tiddens said, and it no longer deters them.