The Dark Side of Bambi
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.