Why A Wildlife Expert Wants You To Stay Away From Deer In Your Yard

They may look sweet and cuddly, but they need their space.

December 21, 2017
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deer in the snow
Nathan Derrick/getty

Kindra Mammone loves deer. And that’s why she wants you to stay away from them.

Even though they seem sweet and cuddly, these quiet creatures who seem to love wandering into your yard or street are still wild animals. “We’re moving into their space, and they’re trying to learn to live in the space that we’re re-creating,” says Mammone, who’s the Executive Director of CLAWS, a nonprofit wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center outside of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

That, of course, can lead to some strange (a baby deer being bottle-fed) and sad (a deer getting hit by a car) situations. To keep them happy and healthy, the best thing we can do is to give them their space—and be mindful in situations where they might be encroaching on ours, like on the road.

Here are 5 simple ways to do that.

(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale's Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)

petting a deer
Kitoki Tan / EyeEm/getty
You shouldn’t interact with them—even if they’re really, really cute

Deer get acclimated to people really quickly. Making them feel welcome in your yard or coaxing them to approach you in the park will cause them to lose their natural fear of humans—which could put them and you in harm’s way.

How? It could encourage them to keep coming to populated areas, upping the odds that they’ll get hit by a car, Mammone says. It could also put you at risk for transmitting a disease to the deer and vice versa (like Lyme disease). And even though they look chill, during mating season, a deer might try to attack you if it feels threatened.

Related: 8 Mistakes You're Making That Up Your Risk For Lyme Disease

feeding a deer
They don’t need you to feed them

Aside from the fact that handing out snacks is a no-fail way to draw more deer into populated areas, deer don’t need people food. For starters, it’s bad for them. Stuff like corn or white bread offers precisely zero nutrition, which means animals end up missing out on the vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy and strong, says Mammone. (Here are 3 more reasons you shouldn't feed the local wildlife.)

You shouldn’t feel guilty about keeping food to yourself, either. Even in the winter, most deer can find enough food to survive. And if there isn’t enough food to go around for all the deer in your area? That’s nature’s version of population control, Mammone says. Yes, that might sound sad. But it’s the way the animal world was designed to work. You don’t want to mess with that, do you?

Related: 5 Totally Humane Ways To Keep Deer Out Of Your Yard And Garden

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deer on the road
by JBfotoblog/getty
There are things you can do to help prevent accidents

There’s no way to guarantee that a deer won’t step out in front of your car while you’re driving. But you can minimize the odds of it happening with a deer whistle, Mammone says. These plastic devices, which can be attached to your car’s front bumper or roof, use wind to emit a high-pitched noise that’s thought to scare nearby deer away. (Like a dog whistle, humans can’t hear it.) These are available on Amazon for less than $7.

Also? Be extra vigilant during the times of day when deer are most likely to wander into the road. Typically, that’s around dawn and dusk, when the animals are heading away from home in the morning to feed or heading back home in the evening, Mammone says. That means that in the winter when it gets dark earlier, deer tend to be on the move at the same time that many people are driving home from work.

Related: 7 Plants That'll Keep Deer Out Of Your Garden

deer in the yard
Shanna Szymczak / EyeEm/getty
Trying to help one can make things worse

Attempting to handle or transport an injured deer will make them intensely scared or stressed. Those extreme emotions can trigger a chemical reaction called capture myopathy, a condition that causes extreme muscle damage and can be deadly. And most baby deer that seem like they’re abandoned probably aren’t in trouble. “It’s normal for deer to leave their babies all day long,” Mammone says.

That’s why the best thing to do if you see a deer that looks hurt or lost is to leave it alone. Yes, walking away can be tough. But a deer with minor injuries will heal just fine without human intervention, and one with major injuries probably wouldn’t have made it anyway, says Mammone.

The one exception: If you spot a very young deer that seems hurt, call a local licensed wildlife rehabilitator. (You should still avoid touching it yourself.) Deer under 3 months old aren’t susceptible to capture myopathy, so there’s a greater chance that an expert could safely transport it to an animal hospital or rehab center where it can be treated.

Related:5 Ways Your Garden Can Support The Local Wildlife

deer in the snow
Nathan Derrick/getty
The best way to enjoy them is from far away

Even though you saw that amazing Instagram video of a deer eating spaghetti at someone’s dinner table or watching TV with them on the couch, wild animals and people aren’t meant to be best friends. For everyone’s sake, it’s smarter to let deer do their thing—and to avoid getting too close. “It’s better to just watch them through binoculars,” Mammone says.

Related:How To Build A Deer-Proof Fence