Keep Me Wild: Deer

Two deer fawns standing
Buck and doe in snow
Deer herd in snow
Buck standing in grass


California is home to two subspecies of mule deer: Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus), and California mule deer (O.h. californicus). They are an important part of California’s unique biodiversity. Deer are also one of the most frequently reported human-wildlife conflict species statewide. 

Increased human presence and access to non-natural food sources can alter a deer’s natural behaviors, diet, and foraging habits. These changes can result in a loss of migratory herds as deer become year-round “residents” in some places. Increased human-deer conflict can occur as deer exhibit less fear of people or pets as they seek food. When deer are attracted to one location, you may also be attracting natural predators such as mountain lions. Learn more!

Homeowners, Property Owners, Renters

Use simple, effective exclusion methods.

  • Eliminate access to animal feed, hay, and grain that may attract deer.
  • Install deer-proof fencing (e.g., high-tensile wire, square-mesh woven wire, v-mesh) to protect property.
  • Install electrified high-tensile wire fencing to protect property and/or specific attractants.

Use simple, effective deterrent methods.

  • Install motion-activated lights, noise or alarms.
  • Deploy commercial repellents for light to moderate damage caused by deer.
  • Homemade repellents, such as those using animal urine, are not proven effective.
  • Recognize that most deterrent methods only offer short-term limited effectiveness.

Use “wildlife-smart” landscaping.

  • Plant deer-resistant, drought tolerant grasses, trees, and plants.
  • Pick ripe fruit off trees, and promptly collect fruit that falls.
  • Do not intentionally feed deer – this will attract mountain lions and bears.

Yards, Parks & Green Space

At Home 

  • Remove attractants such as fallen fruit.
  • Keep bird feeders clean and maintained. If deer begin feeding under hanging bird feeders - Remove the feeders completely.
  • Do not leave pets unsupervised outside during the fawning season. 
  • Do not intentionally feed deer. Attracting deer can attract predators.

In Parks or Green Spaces

  • Leash pets while walking or hiking.
  • Do not intentionally feed deer. Attracting deer can attract predators.
  • Respect Wildlife. Keep a safe distance.

Prevention is Key

Deer encounters resulting in human injury – or injury to pets - are not common, but can occur. Deer, like any wildlife, can be unpredictable. Most attacks occur because a food conditioned or habituated deer becomes too bold and act aggressively towards a person.

If you encounter a deer – and it looks healthy:

  • Enjoy the sighting!
  • Keep a safe distance and allow it to move away on its own.

If you encounter a deer - and it looks sick or injured:

  • Keep a safe distance.
  • Do not approach, touch or handle the animal.
  • Contact CDFW, your local Animal Control or Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility for guidance.

If you encounter a deer – and it approaches you:

  • Maintain a safe distance.
  • If small children are present - Keep them close to you.
  • If pets are present - Do not allow them to approach or chase it.
  • Make yourself look bigger (e.g., waving arms) and make noise. Allow the deer to leave on its own.

If you encounter a deer – and it attempts to attack a person or pet:

  • Get to a safe location
  • Notify the nearest CDFW office after contacting local authorities. If injured – Call 9-1-1.

If you encounter a fawn - If you care, leave it there!

  • Female deer leave their fawns alone for long periods of time to prevent attracting predators.
  • If the fawn is not in distress - Removing it from its mother’s care reduces its chances of future survival in the wild.
  • If the fawn is in obvious distress – Please contact CDFW or local Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility for guidance.

Additional Resources

NEVER FEED WILDLIFE. Feeding big game animals is prohibited in California (Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 251.3).