Increasing deer populations can threaten both traditional and alternative crops. This project will explore the effectiveness of roving dogs as a deterrent to deer predation in a vineyard, and will integrate the effort into a larger integrated pest management program for both animals and insects.
In the spring of 1998 a commercial vineyard was being established in Harford County, Maryland on six acres of previously hay land. The vineyard was started on a small scale by planting one half acre of Cabernet Franc grafted plants. During the first year of growth it was observed that local deer and other rodent pests were preying upon numerous plants. They were observed both during the daytime and at night. The deer in the past had used the property as the pathway for their travel from one wooded area to another.
In order to deter the deer and other pests from the vineyard, a pair of 5-week-old Great Pyrenees mixed breed puppies were purchased. These puppies were kept under dog pen conditions until they were accustomed to the surroundings and fed and exercised appropriately. During this time, an underground electric fence containment system was purchased from Deer Busters incorporated and installed on the border around the complete property boundary. After approximately one month, the dogs were fitted with the transmitter collars for this underground containment system. For the purpose of training to the flagged underground system, the dogs were taken out of their dog pens once in the morning and again in the afternoon.
After one week of training the dogs appeared ready for the task and were fitted permanently with transmitter collars. They were then allowed to roam around the property unrestricted. From the initial reactions of the dogs, it was immediately apparent that the collars were working. The collars were tested on the flagged borders of the property and throughout the vineyard. After approximately one week of observations the dogs became accustomed to the underground fenced system and where the flagged borders existed. As instructed by the confinement system every other flag was gradually removed until all flags were eliminated from the property line.
During year one and prior to the installation of the dog confinement system, there were many signs that deer had been on the property. These indicators included both the destruction of the trellis systems and the damage of some of the young plants. However, as young dogs tend to do, these canines were very active inside their confined system borders. This was especially true during the evening hours and throughout the night. They tended to voice intruder presence by barking and running throughout the property borders. There has been a reduction in deer activity as was evident by the lack of observed deer within the vineyard, and the reduction in plant destruction. We can confidently assume that the dogs have been on guard and have been a major deterrent to these pasts.
– Low maintenance of dogs within the underground fencing system;
-Dogs roam all night on patrol with a continual watch for vineyard pests;
-Deterrent of deer and rodent pests;
-Dogs are easily trained to the confinement system.
-Growing pains by the dogs, (i.e. continual playing and rough housing in vineyard frequently causing destruction of plants).
-During their puppy phase the dogs had a tendency to chew on everything in sight (i.e. sticks, plants, rubber hoses).
-Defective transmitter system caused collars not to work properly allowing for dog to leave containment system and wander neighborhood. This escape pattern had to be untrained and the dog retrained to the system. Due to the system being completely underground, diagnosis of the problem was difficult. Consultation with system distributor was necessary until the defective transmitter was discovered.