Finding Ways to Live with Deer in Montana Communities

Cat Runs Off Deer
Man’s best friend may be the best deterrent. A dog (or a determined cat) free to roam around a yard will keep even the most tempted deer away from a garden or home.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

MALTA, Mont. –-( A healthy, vibrant population of deer is important to Montanans.

When high deer numbers are found on the edge of town or within the city limits, however, conflicts can arise.

Deer in an urban setting can damage gardens and ornamental plants, threaten human safety, damage property, and lead to expensive car/deer accidents.

Deer begin moving into residential areas for many reasons.  The lack of natural predators in town, available food sources, surrounding hunting pressure, and periods of harsh weather conditions are all factors moving deer into the city limits.  In most cases, deer will move into towns on a temporary basis.  Yet, many towns have open areas with enough cover and forage to hold deer year-round.

Deer are highly adaptive, and they soon learn that a certain dog is on a chain, short fences are easy to jump, and scare crows aren’t that scary.

So what can be done to live with deer?

There are several repellants that have limited effectiveness, available both commercially and as at-home remedies.  Some are only effective for light to moderate deer problems.  An inexpensive home remedy that has proven effective for a short time involves using Ivory soap shavings around smaller plants.

Fencing is the most effective method to keep deer out of a yard.  However, since deer can regularly jump over fences six feet high, a home owner may have to build fences as high as eight feet.  Electric fences and fences that are doubled five feet high and four to five feet apart can also deter deer.

Man’s best friend may be the best deterrent.   A dog free to roam around a yard will keep even the most tempted deer away from a garden or home.  Because deer visit yards mostly at night, it is important that the dog have access to the yards at all hours.

People should not, under any circumstances, artificially feed deer.  Not only is this illegal in Montana, the diet is unhealthy and can cause deer to adopt habits that put them in more conflicts with humans.  If someone appears to be feeding or attempting to attract deer, please contact the local authorities. Being mindful of bird feeders and feed for pets such as rabbits can keep deer from targeting an area.  Also, some residents on the edge of towns have hay yards/feeders for horses and cattle.  These food sources attract deer, and after feeling more comfortable around human activity, the deer may then venture into town.

Lastly, accidents with deer and vehicles can be dangerous and costly.  It is best to SLOW DOWN when approaching deer near the roadway.  Deer seldom look before crossing a street, so motorists must be aware that deer may run out at any time.  Also, do not honk the horn, as the sudden loud noise may cause deer to panic and act erratically.

This information and more can be found at the following web site:

In addition, there is a free brochure that is available at your local Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks office called “Living with Deer” that contains additional information and references.

Urban Deer
Finding Ways to Live with Deer in Montana Communities
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