Lions and tigers and bears — oh deer

June 4, 2015

By Pat Detmer

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Three weeks ago, a cougar was spotted in Kennydale. Not long after that, a bear was seen strolling up our very own street. I long ago accepted the wild kingdom that is our backyard and greenbelt: Raccoons who roll up our grass like old carpeting while looking for grubs, rabbits whose warren holes are just large enough to be a tad unnerving when I walk by them, snakes on the front stoop, bobcats on the fence, skinks in the garage, frogs in the family room, chipmunks in our rockeries, bear scat on the path. Live and let live, I say.

But this year … oh, deer.

Pat Detmer

Pat Detmer

If you live in Newcastle, I know you’ve had the deer experience. You learn to adapt. I only grow Hosta and Huechera in pots on the deck and fully expect fresh tulips to be beheaded before sunset. I finally gave up and pulled out a plant that had served as their salad bar for so many years that I could no longer ID it. California Lilac? Yum! Lemon Cypress Tree? Our compliments to the chef! I always ask the helpful garden folks at Newcastle Fruit & Produce if plants are deer-resistant before I buy them, but lately they just laugh. I understand why. If our local deer are hungry enough, there’s nothing they won’t eat. Except, unfortunately, Bishop’s Weed.

We recently took out an overgrown fir that was blocking the sun. Suddenly the little Witch Hazel tree I’d poked in that corner a decade ago had some space, and it gratefully stretched out its limbs. Every morning I admired its wide and airy growth habit through the kitchen window. It was a survivor. Very lovely. Very Zen.

Last week, Newcastle Niece brought Jack over for a visit. She came tearing in the front door saying that three deer were coming across our front yard and headed for the back, and she wanted Jack to see them. I know this group well, a doe and her two juvenile delinquents. We ran to the kitchen window and stood Jack on the counter. Jack was excited. I was not, because to my horror, they began to wander toward a spot they’d never been before: back in the corner, by my Beautiful! Witch! Hazel!

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That was it! For the first time since moving here 25 years ago, I felt the need to startle a deer. I tore out the back door clapping my hands like Grandmother used to do when she wanted us to wake up during summer visits. The deer startled (just like us) jumped a fence, and headed for the greenbelt. But it was too late. In a few short seconds, they had de-leafed half of my tenacious little tree.

Today, they took the other half.

This means war.

You can reach Pat Detmer — who believes that this is a war she will eventually lose — through

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One Response to “Lions and tigers and bears — oh deer”

  1. Lillian M. Reinys on June 16th, 2015 2:58 pm

    Hello Pat, Always enjoy reading your columns!
    At the Y this AM you asked about my children’s picture book, “Sebastian’s Journey”.
    You can check it out at

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