City of Elyria > Elected Offices > Mayor > Humane Deer and Feral Cat Solutions

Humane Deer and Feral Cat Solutions

One of the benefits of living in the City of Elyria is the beauty of nature set against our business-ready urban landscape. In just minutes you can travel from the traffic and bustle of downtown to visit one of our beautiful parks complete with walking trails along a scenic river landscape, waterfalls, lush foliage, and wildlife galore. While some might prefer that nature stay strictly within its apportioned boundaries, the reality is that the two often cross paths, resulting in deer, raccoons, skunks and other creatures entering into our daily lives. Sometimes these interactions are positive, such as watching our children marvel at the sight of a baby deer in the back yard; other times, it can frustrating, finding our gardens has been used as a buffet during the night.


Cities throughout the world have attempted different methods to address the occasional inconvenience associated with wildlife in an urban environment, often with mixed results. The call to have the wildlife removed in a permanent fashion is often heard loudly and immediately by those directly affected, but safety concerns, respect for nature, and research indicate that this is rarely a viable solution.

For example, the process of deer culling will obviously reduce the immediate number of deer in a specific area on a short-term basis, but with less competition for food and other resources, research indicates that other deer will move into the recently vacated area and more deer will be born and survive longer, offsetting the initial cull and possibly resulting in a deer population boom.  Other experts indicate that culling may have a chance to succeed but in order to see any significant change in long-term deer population, the total population for significant landmass  would have to be reduced between 50% and 60% for a large contiguous landmass (meaning not just Elyria proper, but all of Lorain County, probably all of Ohio, and possibly the surrounding states as well). It’s not a realistic endeavor, and the inherent safety concerns of firing any weapon within the City limits make this option impractical.

Contraception for deer may sound like a viable option but there are many health and safety concerns, so much so that the  use of contraceptive measures must be authorized by federal regulatory agencies and the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Currently, the Ohio Division of Wildlife does not permit this measure for population management anywhere within the state.   White tail deer in Ohio cover large territories and are often eaten after being hunted or retrieved from the road.  Deer treated with contraceptive chemicals are not fit for consumption and if eaten, create health and safety concerns for the public.


A more realistic and ecologically-sound approach revolves around the use of simple, non-lethal deterrents, some of which are listed below.  With most of these solutions, employing one is good, but using several at the same time is better.

Plant the Right Things (In the Right Places)

Grow plants that deer dislike.  Some of the plants that deer seem to not like include ornamental grasses, iris, foxgloves, yucca, herbs and plants with a strong fragrance, such as sage, chives, lemon balm, bee balm, etc. They also dislike plants with thorns, such as purple coneflower.  There is no proven, 100% formula of what they will and won’t eat, but any discouragement should serve the purpose of a deterrent. If they have to work to go to what they seek, they’ll likely take the path of least resistance just move somewhere else that requires less effort.

Place plants deer like near your home.  Equally, be aware of which plants are likely to tempt deer to your yard. Plants such as tulips, chrysanthemum, hyacinths, roses, apples, beans, peas, raspberries, strawberries, sweetcorn, hosta, dogwood, fruit trees, Norway maple, yew, and azaleas positively radiate welcome signs to deer. Putting plants that deer like next to your home will make them less likely to be raided. Alternately, some people locate these plantsintentionally a long way from parts of the yard or garden to lure deer away from the plants they wish to keep safe.


Install a fence. The most effective method of keeping deer out of your yard is a fence, and while yes, deer can jump quite high, properly installing a barricade has been shown to act as an effective deterrent. Wooden or metal fences are the most effective, but there are a variety of alternatives including virtual fencing and noise deterrents that will encourage deer to move elsewhere.

Visual Deterrents

Using a traditional scare device can function as an effective deterrent.  Scarecrows have been around for as long as they have for a reason. They really do work. A combination of visual and auditory deterrents may be more effective than a single deterrent by itself. For the best results, try a combination of methods to prevent deer from getting used to any one technique. Deer are very adaptable, and can overcome their fear of some scare devices, if they learn that the device presents no real danger. Moving scare devices around, imparting movement to the device, and using repellents in conjunction with scare devices can help improve their effectiveness. Scare devices that incorporate and motion sensor and are only activated when they detect a deer close by are generally more effective for longer periods of time.


Most repellents work through the deer’s sense of smell.  They can range from things that can be simply unpleasant for the deer to smell to pheremones of  deer’s  natural predators. There is a broad choice of
repellents – human hair, soap, feathermeal, bloodmeal, creosote, mothballs, tankage and commercial chemical repellents. The reality is that the best method is to use several, and rotate their use throughout the season.

Feral Cats

The City of Elyria has partnered with the Lorain County Friendship Animal Protective League, funded by a generous grant from PetSmart, to implement a wide-scale Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program within the City to help address the feral cat situation.  Like deer, raccoons, or many other types of wildlife, simply removing the creatures, even in large numbers, will have a minimal effect on the population or status of the area because new clowders of cats will move in to take their place.  Trap-Neuter-Return programs, where the feral cats are captured, neutered offsite, and returned to their original area in a more docile state, have shown to have a significant impact on the cat population in an area over time.  The groups remain intact, preventing new cats from moving in to take their place, but since cats in a large area can no longer reproduce, their numbers diminish and eventually dwindle away.  It’s humane, ecologically friendly, and since it’s funded by private donations and grants, extremely cost-efficient from a taxpayer standpoint.

To learn more about the program or have your neighborhood placed on the list, please contact the Mayor’s Office at 440-326-1402 or the Lorain County Friendship APL at 440-322-4321.

We understand that as we implement this long-term solution, there are still short-term inconveniences associated with feral cats and offer the suggestions below to address these concerns during the interim.  More information for each and specific details are available in this flyer:


Motion-Activated Sprinklers: These sprinklers, available in most large pet and home improvement stores, are specifically designed to assist in encouraging unwanted wildlife to spend their time elsewhere.  They use infrared sensors to detect a nearby creature and subsequently emit a non-harmful jet of water in a wide-reaching arc around the sprinkler.  Most are designed to be effective while using only a minimal amount of resources.

Ultrasonic Devices: These work similar to the motion-activated sprinklers, but instead of emitting water, they emit a high-pitched sound (which humans can’t hear) that cat’s don’t like.  These non-harmful devices are available at most pet stores.

Scent Repellants: There are a variety of commercially-available as well as natural or homemade scent repellants.  Some commercial repellants claim to be safe while also advise to not apply to food crops, so those products should only be used in closed spaces or when placed in special containers to prevent contamination, and definitely should not be sprayed onto any plants in your garden.  A better solution is  to use natural scent deterrents, such as the plant Coleus Canina, or place citrus rinds, coffee grounds, pipe tobacco, lavender oil, lemon grass oil, peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, or mustard oil the area you wish to keep feline-free.  Those are all non-dangerous and might even serve to help your garden grow.

Barriers to Digging: Fences, rocks, and some natural barriers can be used to keep cats out of your yard.  Cats are small compared to some other animals and can be quite wily, so they might not keep the cats out of a yard entirely, but they can be effective in keeping them away from gardens or other areas you wish to protect from digging.