The Dark Side of Bambi

Stanstead Journal - - NEWS BRIEFS - Spe­cial Col­lab­o­ra­tion Bob Irvine

Bob Irvine and his wife Karen Smith of Ot­tawa spend their sum­mers at Drum­mond Point on Lake Mem­phrem­a­gog north of Ge­orgeville. In this ar­ti­cle, Bob re­ports

on their ad­ven­tures deal­ing with a rogue deer with a taste for flower gar­dens.

Nowin our mid-60s and both re­tired, Karen and I ar­rive at our sum­mer place each May like set­tlers in a new land – full of hope but steel­ing our­selves for what­ever Mother Na­ture might throw our way. In May and June, I dealt with the many branches that had fallen in the De­cem­ber ice-storm while Karen tended the flower gar­den flank­ing our lakeside cot­tage. After a num­ber of sum­mers’ work, our gar­den – a mix of flox, hosta, and day-lilies backed by a row of hy­drangeas – was be­com­ing a source of pride and plea­sure for us. Karen’s brother David would be vis­it­ing us in a cou­ple days and our place ac­tu­ally looked pre­sentable. This was go­ing to be an easy-go­ing sum­mer, we thought.

Then it hap­pened. We woke one morn­ing to find that dur­ing the night some­thing had munched off the tops of half our hy­drangeas and wolfed down many of the hosta. The dam­age to the hy­drangeas seemed es­pe­cially mean – nib­bling off the bloom but noth­ing else. We talked to neigh­bours. Oth­ers had lost gera­ni­ums and roses to the night-prowler. Later that same day we saw “it” – a doe be­hind our cot­tage ly­ing on its side in the grass, doz­ing in the af­ter­noon sun­shine. We tried to en­cour­age the deer to move along else­where but it just gazed at us steadily with a kind of Clint East­wood go-ahead-make-my-day look. Even­tu­ally Big Ears, as we soon named it, slowly saun­tered off. We are deal­ing with a four-legged gar­bu­ra­tor with a bad at­ti­tude, I thought.

With David com­ing the next day and the two of us throw­ing a big din­ner-party in his hon­our, I moved quickly to pre­vent fur­ther dam­age to our re­main­ing flow­ers. I up­ended our white resin lawn chairs and laid them down in a row in front of our gar­den. With their legs stick­ing men­ac­ingly in the air, they looked like tank-traps. Karen doused all our flow­ers with a deer­re­pel­lent – spe­cially for­mu­lated in Swe­den – she picked up in Magog. The next morn­ing we found that Big Ears had not eaten any more of our flow­ers. How­ever, the gar­den now looked like it had been the site of an axe-mur­der. We read the fine print on the re­pel­lent con­tainer to learn that its main in­gre­di­ent was blood, whose blood be­ing listed only in Swedish.

After David’s de­par­ture and sev­eral nights of set­ting my tank-traps, Karen and I de­cided that we needed to find bet­ter ways to ward off Big Ears and her bud­dies. Nancy in Ge­orgeville, we learned, kept deer at bay with a home­made mix­ture of egg whites and spices like cayenne pep­per. But what if Big Ears likes her day-lilies Tex-Mex style, we won­dered. At Fitch Bay hard­ware, we were told that the an­swer was Ir­ish Spring soap: run a bar of Ir­ish Spring through your cheese-grater and then sprin­kle the re­sults around the perime­ter of your gar­den. And maybe buy a new cheese-grater if you don’t want to eat weird-tast­ing pizza for the next year. At the back of my tool shed, I found a bot­tle of Min­nesota coy­ote urine from a bat­tle years ear­lier with rac­coons. Yes, a Google search re­vealed, just daub balls of cot­ton bat­ting in the urine, place them in yo­gurt con­tain­ers in which you’ve punched holes, and then scare the day­lights out of any deer ten miles down­wind. And have your gar­den look like a re­cy­cling plant, I thought. At Ben’s nurs­ery in Magog, we learned that deer hate the taste of black-eyed Susan and find Frances Wil­liams hosta es­pe­cially sour. (The only Fran Wil­liams we ever met was es­pe­cially sweet to us.)

I came up with two schemes of my own. The first in­volved con­nect­ing wa­ter­can­nons – maybe I could get them cheap on eBay from some South Amer­i­can dic­ta­tor – with a set of mo­tion-sen­sors. The sec­ond in­volved psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare: loud speak­ers would blare all night on a con­tin­u­ous loop the scene from Walt Dis­ney’s Bambi in which his fa­ther an­nounces in a deep voice “Bambi, your mother is dead.”

In the end, Karen and I im­ple­mented a scorched-earth pol­icy. We re­moved any of the hosta that Big Ears had en­joyed and re­placed them with va­ri­eties rec­om­mended at Ben’s. Around the gar­den, I built an over­sized bor­der of field-stones and river rock; Big Ears would at least stub her toe – make that hoof – and feel un­steady as she sur­veyed our gar­den in the dark. And now I keep telling Karen how pretty a split-rail fence around our en­tire cot­tage would look.

We see Big Ears of­ten when we go for walks along the road. Per­haps a hunter will en­joy veni­son steaks this fall that have the pleas­ant smell of a flower gar­den on the bar­beque. Karen and I will see what next sum­mer brings. Live in hope I say.

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