What Do Deer Eat
What do deer eat? Although they seem to like poking around in the garden and other areas that they don’t really belong in, what do deer eat and what foods do they prefer?
In essence, deer are herbivores and like to feed on shoots, twigs, grass, and bark. They also like clover and green leaves. However, they are also known as scavengers and will eat on other items as they become available as well.
Any gardener can probably tell you how much trouble they have keeping a deer away from their gardens. So why do deer like gardens so much and what do deer eat in the gardens? Well, since they enjoy eating vegetation, all of those big leafy plants and vegetables are the things that lure them to the garden to begin with. Although a person might look at the garden and see cabbages, carrots, tomatoes, and beans, a deer will look at it and see a big field of large, green, leafy plants that are just ripe for the taking.
Even though you can purchase “deer feed” at some stores, deer do not actually eat this food in the wild. When they have the choice, they will choose plants over a bunch of seeds and small nuggets almost every time. Still, not every type of plant provides the right amount of nutritious properties for deer.
Of course, deer have their favorite foods as well. Like human beings, they can be picky and have their preferences. When their favorite foods are not available, or when they have eaten them all up, they will turn to other sources, too. This is why you sometimes might find a deer rooting around in a garbage can and going through the trash. Even though it knows that what it’s eating isn’t exactly nutritious, it’s still better than nothing at all.
Deer actually prefer woody plants and shrubs. They can feed on these plants year round and are able to eat the twigs and leaves on them. Some examples of woody plants and shrubs include greenbrier, honeysuckle, willow, sassafras, grape, blackberry, dewberry, sumac, rose, and black gum.
If there is nothing else available, then they will feed on wild grasses. However, this is kind of a last resort for the deer and when they do eat them, they only eat the shoots are tender and young.
Deer also eat forbs, which are perennial plants that die in the wintertime but come back with new growths in the springtime. Forbs can be flowering plants like ragweed, wild clover, beans, dandelion, wild lettuce, sedges, mushrooms, sunflower, and bellflower.
Nuts are very nutritious for deer since they provide the deer with a lot of protein, but they are usually difficult to get to so the deer sometimes has trouble foraging for them. For that reason, they generally turn to the grasses and forbs. Some common nuts that they do like to eat, however, are hickory nuts, red acorns, beechnuts, and white acorns. If you are trying to feed a deer, then you might find that providing it with nuts is one way to keep it coming around.
Some crops that definitely draw deer in more than others are alfalfa, rye grass, wheat, oats, clover, and soybeans. Of course, any vegetable with big green leaves will catch their eye as well.
During the summertime, deer enjoy eating fruits like huckleberry, dogwood, grapes, dewberry, coralberry, and blackberries. They provide the deer with a lot of energy due to their sugar content, but they can only be found during the summer.
Knowing what deer eat can help you in two ways-if you’re trying to feed a deer then you can have a better understanding of what it likes to eat and if you’re trying to get rid of a deer population then you can know what to avoid planting.