Peppermint Oil: Here’s How To Use It To Deter Deer


Mule Deer Buck in Colorado in Autumn

As you probably know, deer are a four-legged animal found in many parts of North America. If you are looking for some ways to naturally deter these gentle but sometimes intrusive creatures, you might want to try out using peppermint essential oil.

Deer have a strong sense of smell and dislike the scent of peppermint oil. In fact, deer have a stronger olfactory sense than bloodhounds. You can use peppermint oil to repel deer by using a diffuser or a commercial repellent containing peppermint oil near your backyard or garden.

Before we get into the discussion about deterring deer in the proper, simple, safe way that peppermint oil offers, are you wondering why this is even necessary? Let’s dive into the reasons why you need to repel deer before we go through the how.

Why Do You Need To Deter Deer?

Deer are a pretty common mammal in North America. Oftentimes, we see them more frequently than we even realize. They are a part of life in many parts of the country if we can be so bold. From reminders to family and friends to watch for deer on dark nights in the summer to watch them roam in the woods near housing developments, deer are everywhere.

Deer can cause some safety concerns, from driving to drawing in predators, and can be a nuisance when it comes to your personal backyard garden’s success.

While some deer just wander around and don’t get in the way, others can be a cause for concern when they wander around residential areas and roads. It is for this reason that deterring deer has become a big focus in many areas.

Whether they are ruining food supplies, drawing in other bigger animals, or causing accidents, deer can be much more of an issue than you might expect at first thought. Needless to say, having them super close to you on a regular basis can have a negative impact on you and those around you.

Here are some of the common issues that you’ll find if there are deer on or around your property:

They Eat Outdoor Plants

To deer, plants are just plants. They don’t distinguish between the leaves of a bush in the forest and the beloved tomato plant that you’ve worked all spring and summer to perfectly cultivate.

Seeing a deer in the front yard of a neighbor is often exciting. You drive by and try to see if the deer is real or one of those fake deer that is for either decoration or to keep away the real ones. Seeing deer in your own yard may also be exciting, circumstantially. Seeing deer eating your plants and carefully grown produce, however, is not as positive of an experience. 

The main point of this comparison is that little things can turn from exciting to aggravating very quickly. Isn’t it better to keep a positive, excited view of animals while keeping them out of your space than to develop an annoying feeling whenever you picture them destroying your hard work?

Even worse, if you’ve been planting trees – deer can do quite some damage to your sapling or full-grown trees as well. If you’re interested, you can read our full guide on keeping deer away from your trees here.

Annoyance really isn’t the only issue that deer pose to you and your space- there are bigger problems that their presence may create.

They Might Attract Predators

Deer are pretty laid-back creatures themselves, but those animals that are their predators are not as serene. Neither you nor your small pets want a coyote around, or a wolf, or any other predators that may be native to your area.

It might be tolerable for a while, but after other animals come closer to your property, it will surely become a cause for more concern.

Just imagine you on your porch on a nice summer evening, chatting with friends or playing board games with the kids. Suddenly, you hear a wolf howling, but it doesn’t sound very far away. This predator is a little too close for comfort because it is drawn to the deer you have not yet deterred from your property. That would be a bigger issue and could spiral more quickly than you’d like.

Does Peppermint Oil Deter Deer?

White-tailed deer buck in the early evening light during the rut

So, does peppermint oil really deter deer? In short, yes.

Deer are mostly large-bodied animals with very acute senses. From their large eyes to their strong noses, stimulants that are both visual and scent-based can have a significant impact on your journey to get your space back.

Actually, deer not only have scent glands on their face near the eyes but also between the cleaves on their feet. This makes scent so much more effective a deterrent.

When deer walk on the ground where you have placed peppermint oil, it is like they are directly sniffing that scent.

In addition, deer also have extremely sensitive ears. Wind chimes can be an effective deer deterrent as well.

Since we know that the sense of smell in deer is not limited to the nose or even the upper part of the body, it is clear to understand why smells affect them so much more than some animals.

Using Peppermint Oil to Repel Deer

Deer are very sensitive to smell, as we have now learned, and peppermint is a strong scent to any nose, let alone that of an animal that relies on smell as a defense mechanism. 

To use peppermint oil to repel deer, there are a few ways you can do it.

Option 1

Utilize a diffuser filled with peppermint oil and keep it on your back porch. The peppermint mist will keep deer away.

This method is a quick one, as you may already have both the peppermint oil and the diffuser on hand. If you don’t, then it may be best to go with option 2.

Additionally, if your garden isn’t right next to your back porch, then definitely go with option 2.

Option 2

Use an effective commercial product containing peppermint oil and other deer repelling ingredients; specifically, I Must Garden Deer Repellent: Mint Scent Deer Spray.

I Must’s Deer Spray contains .24% peppermint oil, along with a whole host of other deer repelling scents. Additionally, it’s made to spray directly on your plants.

So, if it’s option 1 vs. option 2, the latter will be able to provide direct protection for your plants by making the plant smell unappealing to deer.

Will Peppermint Oil Repel Deer Long Term?

Ah yes, the age-old question. Peppermint oil can repel deer long-term, but the longer you use it – the more likely you are to run into an issue called habituation.

Quite frankly, deer aren’t stupid animals. They’re timid for sure, but if they have a target of eating your plants, they’ll likely eventually venture into your garden to take a bite of your fruits or vegetables if they get the opportunity.

At first, once they detect the peppermint oil, the deer will stay away. For a period of time after, the deer will STILL stay away, but if they know there’s easy food available and the scent of peppermint starts to waver over the course of the next few weeks, then the deer may take a chance and go towards the adverse scent (aka, your garden.)

So, to combat this, you’ll want to pair the peppermint oil with other stimuli or even change up the scents now and again!

One option is to pair the peppermint oil with motion-detecting lights. You can read our full guide on using motion sensor lights to deter animals and wildlife here.

What Other Smells Do Deer Hate?

White-tailed deer buck in rut in an autumn meadow

OK – now there are a few other smells that deer hate too, and we want you to have all the info you can to effectively but safely deter deer from your space.

Here are a few scents that you can use that may help deter deer. Not only are these methods scent-based alone, but they are also all scents that can be found in household, natural items. That means you don’t have to spend the big bucks to keep the… well, big bucks away. See what we did there?

You can read our full guide on all of the scents that deer hate here.

Please note that again, these scents below may work for you, but there are TONS of variables that we can’t always prepare for. If you are ever overwhelmed or just need a second opinion, consult with a local wildlife control expert that will be able to support you and help with the situation!

It’s Thyme To Repel Deer

Speaking of natural methods, let’s talk about herbs.

Thyme may not top your list of most-used herbs in cooking; it may not even be a scent that you strongly associate with at all. Deer, however, are not a fan of this at all.

The fact that thyme is not the most intense scent that one could think of makes it a great herb to use when working to deter deer. You won’t notice much of a difference if any, but the deer certainly will.

Not convinced just yet?

How does a little herb deter a deer? Is their sense of smell actually that strong?

The University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Science confirms that this is a scent that deer avoid, along with many others on this list.

Oregano May Deter Deer

To stick with the topic of culinary herbs, oregano is another that works surprisingly well.

Next time you’re making a pizza, pasta sauce, or pesto, save a little oregano and sprinkle it around your perimeter.

It is well-known that deer are naturally skittish creatures, but ones that adapt quickly and familiarize themselves with your deterrent methods. This is why it is so important to combine, rotate, or at least use more than one deterrent at a time.

Peppermint oil gets the job done, but pairing it with oregano, mixing it with lavender, or rotating with garlic (spoiler alert) will offer much better results that last longer.

Lavender May Comfort You, But Deer Hate It

OK, back to the oils for a minute. Actually, herbs. No, oils and herbs. You can use whatever type of lavender you have on hand. If you’re feeling bold, use both!

Lavender is nice, right? A pretty soft and gentle scent that is associated with calm moods and positive things, this is a great scent to use. It won’t bother you unless you’re allergic, and it will especially bother deer.

The plant itself will add a pop of color to your yard, and the oil will be discreet and go unnoticed by any guests you may be entertaining.

Mint Oil (Not Just Peppermint)

Another scent that you can rely on to deter deer is one that we have touched on, in a way.

Mint, not just peppermint, is a great deterrent because of how potent the smell of mint is.

This is another scent that can come in many forms. You could get more oils, like this Handcraft Spearmint Essential Oil, or even use Dried Spearmint Leaves that are crushed and also great in tea.

Or, simply plant a spearmint pod and watch it grow into a culinary sidekick, deer deterrent, and nice addition to your yard.

Growing the plant yourself will take some time, to be fair, so maybe use that as a supplement to another scent, or buy some crushed leaves or oil until your plant has grown larger.

Keep in mind that spearmint is also not the only other mint besides peppermint. Options include:

  • Pennyroyal
  • Water mint
  • Apple mint
  • Wild mint
  • Peppermint
  • Spearmint

Garlic Keeps More Than Just Vampires Away

So, you have to have heard the old saying that garlic keeps vampires away, right?

Well, as it turns out, it keeps deer away too! Garlic is good for a whole range of things, some commonly known but some not so much.

The strong scent keeps deer away due to their sensitive sense of smell, but it is also just such a good item to keep in the house. Whether you’re cooking, trying some home remedies, or growing it in the backyard, this is something that you can benefit from in more ways than one!

Coffee Grounds Repel Deer

Yes, it’s true. Spent coffee grounds can repel deer. In essence, the scent of the coffee grounds signals to deer that humans are nearby and to steer clear of the area. This works best in rural areas where deer aren’t habituated.

You can read more about using coffee grounds to repel deer here.

Long Term Solution: Keeping Deer Away With Habitat Modification

Those powerful scents that work against deer are recommended in deterring them from your space, of course. However, with anything scent-based, there is a lot of variabilities, and much of the success depends on random factors that may or may not work in your favor at the time of use.

Maintain A Clean Backyard

Always keep a clean backyard. Not only will the lack of fallen fruit and leaves reduce the food sources for deer, but it will keep other insects and critters away.

Make sure to trim bushes, avoid piling branches and weeds as this creates a makeshift den for a whole host of other animals, and keep other food and drinks indoors unless you are actively using them. 

As much as you can, cover all foods at the table and make sure to put a lid on your beverages of all sorts. This way, deer and other animals will be less drawn to your specific yard. 

Once your yard is clean and all tidied up, place any yard waste and garbage into the appropriate bins. This also brings us to our next section.

Cover Your Garbage Bins

Though this one seems obvious, you’d be surprised to learn how many people don’t follow such an easy preventative practice.

To not waste the rest of your efforts, make sure that you always seal your waste. Deer will rummage through garbage bins as other animals do, so this is another preventative method that is going to help you avoid a ton more animal-based complications on your property.

Use Fencing Around Your Garden

Keep your garden more secure, and avoid deer, rabbits, mice, and other animals from eating your homegrown produce.

Not only will this keep animals away, but it can be a fun way to separate that space from the rest of your yard. For example, this Decorative Borden Garden Fencing can provide both security and a fun, aesthetically pleasing look.

Store Your Foods Properly

On that note, store the food that you have in your area properly.

It doesn’t need to be said that storing your food properly, in a secure manner, will save you a whole lot of trouble when it comes to critters in your space.

We’re going to say it anyway, though- keep your food secure and properly sealed!

You should start practicing this as a habit because you never know what pests are around the corner, and this solution is so simple it’s almost hard to believe.

Remember that this method will help keep other animals away, such as raccoons, wasps, and coyotes.

Oh, Dear, It’s The End Already!

Well, that’s basically all we have for you right now.

If you’d like, you can check out our list of the best natural deer repellents here!

Remember that deer are adaptable creatures, and you have to work to outsmart them before they get too comfortable in your space.

It might be frustrating to have deer issues at home, but they can be deterred when you use the following scents.

  • Peppermint Oils
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Lavender
  • Garlic
  • Mint (In General)

But again, to make sure that everything is effective, don’t forget to always maintain cleanliness in your premises along with the use of these natural scent-based deterrents.

Thank you for reading!

I hope this article helps you in keeping these gentle nuisances away from your space.

References

Hedlund, J. H., Curtis, P. D., Curtis, G., & Williams, A. F. (2004). Methods to reduce traffic crashes involving deer: what works and what does not. Traffic injury prevention5(2), 122-131.

Putman, R. (1988). The natural history of deer. Cornell University Press.

Green, M. J. (1987). Scent‐marking in the Himalayan musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster). Journal of Zoology1(4), 721-737.

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