Deer-activated Bio-acoustic Frightening Device Deters White-tailed Deer

Aaron M. Hildreth¹, Scott E. Hygnstrom¹, and
Kurt C. VerCauteren²

¹University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources & ²National Wildlife Research Center

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White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) damage urban and suburban plantings as well as crops and stored feed. We tested the efficacy of a frightening device that played pre-recorded distress calls of adult female white-tailed deer when activated by an infrared motion sensor. This deer-activated bio-acoustic frightening device (DABAFD) reduced deer entry into protected sites by 99.3% and bait consumption by 100%. The frightening device we evaluated demonstrated potential for reducing damage in distributed environments and agricultural settings.


  • The number of deer in urban and suburban areas is increasing where hunting is not allowed and non-lethal methods are ineffective at controlling damage in disturbed environments (VerCauteren et al, 2003).
  • Demand for effective non-lethal methods for deterring deer in these sensitive areas has increased.
  • The use of animal-activated bio-acoustic frightening devices may reduce habituation and be effective at low volumes to limit disturbance of neighbors (Gilsdorf et al, 2004).
  • We developed a DABAFD and tested its effectiveness at
    1) deterring deer from entering an area
    2) deterring deer from consuming bait


Figure 1. Deer inside of a protected site during pretreatment (left) and inside of an unprotected site during treatment (right) in eastern Nebraska, 2010.

Study Area

We conducted our study at the 3,384-ha Desoto National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, Agricultural crops comprised 12% of the land cover. The remainder consisted of eastern deciduous forest and native tallgrass prairie. The density of deer was 28 deer/km² during the study.


  • 60,004 ha sites (3 protected, 3 unprotected) > 0.6 km apart
    •  3-sided 2.3-m high poly-mesh fence with 2 cameras and bait pile (Figure 2)
    • 3 protected sites had DABAFD (caller, 2 speakers, infrared sensors)
  • 13-day pretreatment (10 Mar- 22 Mar) and 13-day treatment (23 Mar- 4 Apr)
  • Recorded the number of breaches and feed consumption (L) 


Figure 2. Layout of a protected site to evaluate the efficacy of a DABAFD for deterring white-tailed deer from bait in eastern Nebraska, 2010.


  • The DABAFD drastically reduced the number of breaches and feed consumption
    • ean number of breaches at protected sites decreased 99.3% (Figure 3)
    • Mean feed consumption at protected sites decreased by 100% (Figure 4)
  • 16 breaches at protected sites (13 fawns and 3 does)




Figures 3 and 4. Total number of breaches (top) and feed consumption in liters (bottom) during treatment and pretreatment periods by white-tailed deer at sites protected by a DABAFD and unprotected sites in eastern Nebraska, 2010.


  • Nearly 100% reduction in breaches at protected sites
  • 100% reduction in feed consumption
  • NO habituation!!
  • Study started in late winter when food resources severely limited (some spring green-up did occur at end of treatment phase).
  • Direct observations of deer triggering the device resulted in deer up to 50 m away fleeing into dense cover.
  • The first 10 fawn breaches were enabled by fawns walking under the sensors.

Management Implications

  • Animal-activated bio-acoustic frightening devices may provide long term protection for a variety of developed and agricultural settings.
  • Creating a compact DABAFD with the calls, speaker, sensor, and battery in a self-contained unit would make the product better for urban and suburban homeowners.


Figure 5. Deer attempting to enter (left) a protected site during treatment and being frightened away (right) by the DABAFD in eastern Nebraska, 2010.

Literature Cited

Gilsdorf, J. M., S. E. Hygnstrom, K. C. VerCauteren, G. M. Clements, E. E. Blankenship, and R. M. Engeman. 2004, Evaluation of a deer-activated bio-acoustic frightening device for reducing deer damage in cornfields. Wildlife Society Bulletin 32:515-523.

VerCauteren, K. C., S. E. Hygnstrom, M. J. Pipas, P. Fioranelli, S. Werner, and B. Blackwell. 2003, Red lasers are ineffective a dispersing deer at night. Wildlife Society Bulletin 31:247-252.


  • We thank G. Clements, S. Groepper, G. Phillips, and D. Baasch for assistance.
  • Funding was provided by the NWRC and the UNL SNR.
  • Thank you to T. Cox and staff at Desoto National Wildlife Refuge for access and assistance.

Electronic Deer Control

Deer rely on camouflage and the ability to flee as their primary defense mechanisms. When a deer senses danger, it makes alarm and distress sounds (audible to humans) to alert the rest of the herd that danger is nearby. At Deer Shield, we harness the power of these warning calls by using high fidelity digital recordings of deer alarm calls as well as the sounds of aggressive, hostile and territorial deer. When exposed to the combination of our proprietary sounds, deer will flee the area.

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