Debate over ‘leave me alone deer cologne’ continues
By Tiller Russell June 12, 1997 Berkeley Voice
A Tilden Park employee known affectionately as "Ranger Dan" claims to know of a sure fire way to ward off the rose-starved deer that have long plagued Berkeley's gardens.
Using a potent, organic concoction he calls the "Leave Me Alone Deer Cologne," building grounds aid Dan Clarke has been keeping the rainbow colored gardens at the Brazil Room in Tilden Park in enviable bloom for over two years.
Word of mouth has sent news of the "cologne" to budding green thumbs throughout Berkeley. Clarke told the Voice he receives countless requests for the recipe, which he has given to over 100 Brazil Room patrons and several local flower shops.
Randall Barnes, who works at the Magic Gardens Nursery, said that whenever clients come in asking about how to stave off the hungry deer population, he furnishes them with "Ranger Dan's" recipe, which has proven "remarkably successful."
Although Clarke did not invent the mixture, he is the person most frequently associated with it. In fact, employees at the Brazil Room have been using it with astounding results for the past eight years. But since Clarke came to the park two years ago, association with the recipe has stuck to him almost as closely as the nickname Ranger Dan.
The ingredients to this much touted deer repellent are shockingly banal: milk, eggs and water. And the preparation is simple: add one cup of milk and one raw egg to a gallon of water, shake well and allow the mixture to age for a couple of months.
The trick, Clarke believes, is in the application. While using a spray bottle to apply the mixture may not seem all that difficult to most, staying ahead of the moisture, which dilutes it, can be chore.
"You have to reapply it whenever it rains or there's mist," Clarke said. "A lot of people who try it, don't realize that you really have to stay on top of spraying or it won't work. But if you're diligent about it, then I'd say it's 100 percent effective," he continued. Clarke estimated he sprays at least two to three times per week and sometimes more.
Proof of its efficacy is in the popularity of the Brazil Room, which plays host to more than 300 events per year. Much of the draw, explained Clarke, is the multicolored flora, which stray over an area half• the size of a football field. Because many of the events are weddings, Clarke continued, "the place has to look good in terms of color and beauty all year long."
The spray does, however, have several drawbacks. When first applied, the smell is anything but charming. Clarke told the Voice he often sees visitors checking their shoes for dog feces when he sprays the gardens. However, he was quick to add, the scent fades within 15 to 20 minutes.
Other potential problems include mildew and the fungal disease known as black spot. But, Clarke said, these problems are minimal When compared with the damage from deer.
Although there are no roses at the Brazil Room gardens, Clarke believes the spray will work on just about any species of flower. "I don't see why it wouldn't work," he said. "What I have up here is basically a deer salad, and with the exception of a few occasional bites, the deer pretty much stay away from the garden," he added.
Others are not so convinced. Jimmy Lee, the city's senior landscape gardener supervisor said the spray has done little to stem the flow of deer who come to graze in the Berkeley Rose Garden. "We've done that and it hasn't worked," Lee said.
Clarke responded that perhaps the spray had been applied improperly. "If they have automated sprinklers or if they neglect to re-spray after a rain, then it's not going to work. You really have to stay on top of it," he said. Lee did not know the specifics of the how the spray, had been applied, and the gardener, as signed to the Rose Garden could not be contacted for comment at press time.
Rosarian Elizabeth Churchill of the Berkeley Horticultural Nursery attributed the city's limited success at the Rose Garden to the fact that the deer have been going there for so long. "If you use it as preventative measure, then it can be very effective. But, if the deer are already accustomed to crossing the line, then there's not much you can do to stop them," she said.
Commercially produced versions of the mixture are available at horticultural stores throughout the city. Deer Away Big Game Repellent, which comes in both liquid and powder forms, is the most popular, according to Churchill. However, Churchill conceded the resuits have been mixed.
"I have some customers who swear by it. They claim it works wonders'. But, I have others who come in and slam the bottle on the counter and demand a refund," she said.
While the deer problem has been less severe this spring than in previous years, most people believe it will increase as spring bleeds into summer, and the food sources in the hills begin to dry up. Meanwhile, Ranger Dan continues to encourage others to try the malodorous homebrew he calls the "Leave Me Alone Deer Cologne."