Understanding Deer & the Damage they Can Cause.

Deer Damage: an increasing problem across the Canada

Deer damage is on the rise. At the turn-of-the century the deer population was estimated at less than 500,000 in North America. Today the North American deer population exceeds 30 million, with an estimated 400,000 in Ontario alone! It’s easy to understand why deer are creating such an impact on our homes and environment.

Deer are herbivores and eat over 500 species of plants. Male deer can consume 2 to 5 kilos of forage daily. Recent North American data suggests that deer are causing nearly $1 billion in farm, garden, and timber damage annually.

Lyme Disease, carried by deer ticks, is affecting increasing number of people and pets. Sadly, these beautiful but ravenous herbivores have become a very serious problem.

How to Identify Deer Damage

Deer decimate vegetation through two types of activity:


Look for random, torn leaves or stalks with ragged ends often leaving just the stem behind. Deer have no upper incisors and must jerk or tear plants when feeding, unlike woodchuck, rabbit, and other small rodents who usually leave cleanly cut plant stalks. Deer also like to feed on vegetables, fruit, trees and landscape ornamentals with a fondness for hostas and cedars. However, deer are also scavengers and will devour other foliage, especially during the winter months when green vegetation is scarce. Woodchucks, rabbits, and other small rodents usually leave cleanly cut plant stalks.

Antler Rubbing

Look for vertical scrapes and shredded bark, exposing underlying wood up to two metres above ground.

Deer Droppings

Identified as elongated pellets, sometimes mistaken for rabbit droppings. In the spring and summer months when deer are feeding on lush green shoots, leaves, grass, fruit, etc., the pellets clump together and are left as a mass.

Deer Tracks

Shaped like 2 halves of a broken heart, approximately 5-8 centimetres long. The distances between the tracks depend on whether the deer are grazing or running.

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Rabbit Damage Identification

Rabbits: an increasing problem in both urban and rural areas

Rabbits have long been a nuisance for both gardeners and farmers. Their voracious appetite and prolific breeding habits have made them a pest of yards, gardens and landscapes in urban and rural areas. Although their diet is 90% grass, they will eat almost any type of plant including the bark of trees and shrubs in winter.

How to Identify Rabbit Damage

Rabbit damage can be identified by a clean, 45-degree angled cut on the end of stems and leaves.

In winter, rabbits will eat tree buds, twigs and bark. Chew marks can be found on the trunks of trees and shrubs from a few centimetres to a metre above the ground. Rabbits may even remove the bark completely around the trunks and stems, effectively girdling the tree or shrub. This damage is called ring barking.

Other Signs of Rabbit

You may also want to look for tracks left behind by the culprit ravaging your gardens. Rabbits have five toes on their front feet and four toes on their much longer hind feet. Look for droppings that resemble pea-sized individual pellets.

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