Your Place: Deer are smarter than homeowners may think

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

I’ve never been interested in animal husbandry, so it was with great interest that I recently learned that deer — which don’t actually qualify as domestic animals, even though they live in our neighborhoods — mate in cold weather.

That information is courtesy of Bobbex, maker of what it describes as natural deer repellents. Mating makes deer more active and aggressive, and a greater threat to humans, pets, and suburban landscapes, the company says.

Moving to the city won’t help — in some city neighborhoods, there seem to be more deer than people on some mornings.

Deer, it turns out, are smarter than many people give them credit for. They quickly learn where to find easy sources of food when the weather gets cold.

"Unless deer are given a reason to change their browsing trail, they will continue to visit your yard," Bobbex’s Nora Kwochka says.

Though a fence can be a sure way to keep deer out of your yard, you probably can’t build one high enough.

Deer can jump eight feet. Many municipalities limit suburban fence height to five or six feet.

Deer have a better sense of smell than humans do — nearly as good as a dog’s. Canines have about 300 million olfactory receptors. Whitetail deer have about 297 million, while humans have only about seven million.

That strong sense of smell helps deer find food and detect the presence of predators in their environment.

So I guess what Bobbex is saying is that deer are naturally smarter than we are — and that you might need to do some research to get one up on those whitetails.

On another subject, alternative heat, I have a gas fireplace that serves more as a backup for the furnace (it has done so twice in the last 14 years). Maybe you have one, too.

If you turn your fireplace on and off with a remote device, be sure to replace the batteries in any optional remote transmitters and, in some cases, in the receiver, as well. Even when it is not being used, the power held in a battery is slowly depleted.

And be sure to regularly test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.