Deer & Landowner Conflicts

Landscaped yards, orchards, and vegetable crops may be eaten and destroyed by deer and other wildlife. To be sure that the damage was caused by deer, be sure to positively identify the clues left behind by the animal. Deer lack upper incisors (the blade-shaped teeth at the front of the jaw), so twigs browsed by deer look as though they were partially clipped, with a trailing, ragged edge. By contrast, a twig that is neatly snipped off, with a clean, smooth cut, was probably eaten by a rabbit or woodchuck, both of which have strong, sharp incisors. There is no provision in state law or regulation for compensation to landowners for deer damage. Thus, it is to the benefit of landowner to try to prevent crop and planting damage by deer before a significant problem develops.

  • Scare Tactics: If you are sure the damage was caused by a deer, your first choice is to chase all deer off your property whenever you see them to make them wary and uncomfortable there. Loud noises, lights, and even a spray of water from a hose can be useful deterrents.
  • Commercial repellants: Animal hair, and urine may be placed directly on plants to repel deer. All repellents are billed to reduce, not eliminate, deer damage. To achieve this reduction, they must be applied consistently and reapplied as directed. Repellants are not effective for large-scale deterrence.
  • Fencing: The best choice is to build a fence to keep deer out: This is the most effective long-term solution for managing deer damage. A variety of different fence materials can be used. Fencing should be at least 8 feet high. Electric fencing is also an option, as deer quickly change their behavior to avoid the fence.
  • Hunting: Removing deer by hunting during the regulated hunting season is another effective option, although other deer may move in after a few seasons if deterrence is not continued. Landowners who don't hunt can consider inviting sportsmen and -women on to their property during the deer season. Please see the Massachusetts Hunting and Fishing Abstracts or contact your local MassWildlife District Office. Landowners may also wish to check on municipal bylaws concerning shooting and hunting. More on deer management and hunting .

If all options have been exhausted and you are still having a problem, please contact your local MassWildlife office for further technical advice or support.

White-tailed deer are an important natural resource in Massachusetts. They are legally protected as a big game species for which a management program and established hunting season exists. For more detailed information, visit the White-tailed Deer fact pages.