Ashland couple learn to accommodate deer

Fence keeps part of yard unnibbled but open to neighbors

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ASHLAND, Ore. -- Royce and Claire Duncan have a way to enjoy the sight of deer in their Ashland neighborhood and still have lush garden plants and landscaping.

The couple built an attractive deer fence around the front yard of their home, but let deer roam at will on the rest of their unfenced woodland property.

"The front yard is no-deer. The rest of it, they have the run of the place," Royce Duncan said.

The couple live in prime deer habitat, where homes begin to blend into the forested mountains above town. Paradise Creek runs through their property.

Originally from San Diego, the Duncans have owned their Ashland property since 1991. In 2004, they completed their dream of finishing a house on their land.

At first they were delighted by the deer. "Our attitude has changed quite a bit," Claire Duncan said.

They built their deer fence about four years ago to keep their front-yard plants from being nibbled down to the ground.

The front yard and planters on their deck are filled with ornamental species, seamlessly mixed with herbs, a fig tree and green bean and tomato plants.

Outside the fence, deer-resistant Oregon grape, holly and conifers grow.

The now park-like property features towering trees, wood-plank footbridges over the creek and walking paths. Passers-by and deer are welcome to walk on the unfenced land; does sometimes use it as a fawning ground.

Claire Duncan said she has noticed a decrease in the number of deer in the area since they and their neighbors began putting up deer fences.

The fences not only keep deer away from protected vegetation, but they appear to be cutting off the animals' traditional routes through the neighborhood, she said.

The Duncans used wire for their deer fence, so it is see-through for its entire 7-foot height.

Royce Duncan said they intentionally chose the wire and also positioned their deck and patio furniture in the front yard so they could look out on their neighborhood.

"We've gotten so paranoid about privacy in America that we over-apply it. In a small community like Ashland, we can be more neighborly," he said. "I would like to see more people using their front yards like a living place, rather than hiding away in the back."

For anyone else considering a deer fence, Claire Duncan had a word of advice:

"Don't be so concerned about your own garden to the extent that you cut off your connection to the world," she said. "Having your own space that's protected from deer is a great thing, but making the design so you still have a connection to the community is important."