Photo courtesy of National Park Service

Black-tailed deer eat too much of my coastal garden

Healthy Black-tailed deer populations exist in western Oregon (and most likely my back yard). This ‘edge adapted’ species looks for forests with mixed age classes where it can hide in the dense forest cover during the day and eat everything in your garden in the morning or evening.  


Black-tails are a subspecies of mule deer which are found across the Pacific Northwest, from California north into Alaska. A large male (a “buck”) might stand three feet at the shoulder and weigh around 200 lbs.  An adult female (a “doe”) might weigh around 130 lbs.

Their tawny-brown coloring makes them difficult to spot. The wide, triangular tail with the white underside however is easy to spot as they gleefully bound into the forest after eating all of the flowers on the deck.


Deer communicate through touch, vision, sound, and scent which gives us humans some options for discouraging deer dining in our gardens. They are not as shy as one might think and have made themselves quite comfortable on our back deck, eating potted blueberries, petunias, and azaleas.

First off, they have excellent hearing and are not intimidated by barking humans. They know you are not a dog.

Domestic dogs are considered one of their predators. Other predators include coyotes, cougars, and humans.

Black-tailed buck, photo courtesy of National Park Service.

Male Blacktails have great vision and can spot other animals up to 2,000 feet away, even while chewing. The females do not seem to have that same capacity or are simply fascinated by a weird human running their direction and barking.

Black-tails are a popular game animal for hunters. Techniques used include: Spot and stalk, hunting blinds, still hunting, and rattling antlers. Scent control is very important when hunting these mammals.

Scent Deterrents

Scents can also help deter visitors. Deer naturally want to be able to smell their predators. Overwhelming smells can make that difficult to accomplish.

There are smell and taste deterrent sprays which help in the short term. Some strategies might also include hanging scented soaps, human hair, and diesel-soaked rags on or near affected plants. Many a neighbor has questioned why such things hang from our fruit trees and why the small stand seems to smell like a cheap boudoir certain times of the year.

Lastly, there are effective ways to deter damage. Check out the Manage Wildlife Conflicts in Your Home and Garden ( for ideas on blocking access and deterrence and Living with Nuisance Wildlife (

–Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife ( and publications mentioned above)
–National Park Service, Olympic National Park (

Myrtlewood tree (Umbellularia californica)

The Myrtlewood Tree is a very special broadleaf hardwood which is also an evergreen species.  This is not to be confused with the Pacfic Myrtle shrub which also grows along the coast. The Myrtlewood tree grows to heights of 60 to 120 feet, growing at a slow pace of 1” to 12” during each of its first few years of life.   At this pace, the myrtlewood tree may take from 80 to 120 years to reach its full size.T he range of myrtlewood tree, also known as the California-laurel, extends from Reedsport, Oregon to San Diego, California within 160 miles of the Pacific Ocean. 

Myrtlewood comes in a wide variety of colors and is well known for being one of the world’s most beautiful woods. The colors that make up the myrtlewood tree are often a result of the minerals in the soil where it grows. Making furniture, home decor, and other gifts out of the myrtlewood tree became popular in the early 1900s and has continued ever since. Woodworkers in Oregon love working with the wood because of the beauty and many types of finishes it provides. In addition to being appreciated by humans, myrtlewood provides food and cover for various animals. Its seeds are an important food source for squirrels, woodrats, mice, and birds. Deer brown young shoots during the summer.  When visiting the southern coast of Oregon be sure to stop in one of the the “Myrtlewood Factories” that sell Myrtlewood products. Some even give tours of wood working operations. You should also take the opportunity to experience walking through groves of Myrtlewood trees yourselve at  forest trails and roadside parks near the southern Oregon coast.

Dungeness crab (Cancer magister)

The Dungeness crab is an important species on the West Coast, where it thrives in chilly Pacific Ocean waters and drives the economy of fishing communities throughout California, Oregon, and Washington. These crustaceans have eight walking legs and two claws and prefer sandy bottom habitats in the intertidal zones to a depth of approximately 750 feet. Dungeness crab have been harvested commercially on the West Coast since the mid-1800s when San Francisco fishermen began the fishery. For more than 100 years, the fishery has been regulated by size, sex, and season in order to preserve this important resource.

The commercial Dungeness crab season typically begins in early December and continues through the spring. Recreational crabbing is a popular, year-round activity on the Oregon Coast. Just make sure you’re aware of the regulations next time you head to the beach or the docks so you can help ensure this animal continues to provide a delicious food source and an important economic opportunity for coastal communities in the region. Many coastal bait & tackle shops along the coast will help you get set up for an enjoying crabbing experience!