What Do Deer Eat?

Understanding what deer eat is important if you want to attract deer to your property. We have seen lots of deer around our neighborhood and wondered if we could and should get deer near our yard by providing food they can eat.

Deer eat various plants that are available in nature. Their diet can be split into browsing feeds, such as leaves and twigs, weeds, grasses, nuts, fruits, and mushrooms. Different food will be available at different times of the year, but they can find twigs and leaves on shrubs, bushes, and trees almost all year around.

Deer are vegetarians, but they will choose certain foods over others. Continue reading to learn what deer eat.

Food Deer Eat

Deer eat different plants, shrubs, grasses, and foods that are available to them. However, the primary element of their diet is browsing foods, which include leaves, twigs, and stems. They can find this type of food most of the year and it is easy for them to access. Even in the winter when there are no leaves, the twigs contain the nutrition that deer need.

Grasses and weeds are also a favorite among deer, but they are not always available. In the winter, they disappear, so the deer can’t rely on them. However, they eat them when they are available. Weeds are easy for deer to digest and they are full of nutrients. However, when they aren’t available, deer eat leaves and twigs.

Deer also feed on things that supply them with energy while they are growing or when it is cold out. These foods include acorns, nuts, and fruits. They enjoy eating blackberries, plums, mulberry, grapes, and other fruits that are high in carbs, especially when their antlers are growing. They also eat pears or apples during fall, which helps them build up a store of fat for the winter when these foods aren’t available.

There are two types of nuts that are very important for deer, which are acorns and chestnuts. Acorns have a high fat and carbohydrate content, and they are low in protein. Chestnuts are high in both carbs and protein. They help deer when they are growing or when their antlers are growing.

Although deer will eat grass, it is not one of their favorite foods. They do look for cereal grains, which include rye, wheat, or oats. In addition, they eat mushrooms, which are a good source of phosphorus and protein.

How Do Deer Diets Vary in Different Seasons?

The diet of deer changes throughout the year according to what food sources are available. For example, in the spring, they eat foods so that they can gain back the weight they lost during the winter. Weeds start growing in the spring, and deer eat these foods that are easy to digest and high in energy, minerals, and antioxidants. Young deer eat mushrooms during this time because they are high in phosphorus and good for growing deer.

When summer comes, the deer change over to browsing plants, which are the twigs and leaves from woody plants. Towards the middle of summer, deer start eating berries and other fruit. By the fall, they are eating food that is high in carbs, including acorns, apples, pears, and chestnuts. They also look for mushrooms and nuts because it helps them get the nutrients they need for antler growth.

Is it Okay to Feed Deer?

It is okay to make sure that deer have the food they need available to them in the wild, but it is not a good idea to leave food out for them. Some people feel bad for them during the winter and leave food out, such as table scraps and other treats. The problem is that leaving food out for deer leads to other issues for the deer population.

Different communities do what they can to preserve the deer population for hunting season, and feeding them draws them into populated areas. This increases the number of car accidents and draws predators that feed on deer to the homes.

In addition, the deer’s digestive system is set up for the way they eat. They have different microorganisms in their stomachs during the winter, which is what allows them to ingest twigs and branches and use them to get through the winter. The microorganisms that help them digest other foods aren’t present during this time of year.

Deer can starve in the winter if they are full of foods that they can’t digest. They need to digest the food they eat to turn it into protein and nourishment that keeps them alive. If they have eaten kitchen scraps, hay, corn, or other foods that they can’t digest in the winter, they can actually die from not being able to digest it.

Studies have shown that supplemental feeding can actually increase deaths in deer. Although people are trying to help, they are wild animals, and their bodies are designed to handle the winter. They instinctively know what they should eat and interfering with this natural process can have negative consequences.

What Trees Will Hold Deer on a Property?

If you are a lucky owner of a large property and want to attract deer, you can strategically plan certain trees to attract deer and keep them on the property. It is important to choose trees that deer want to eat and that provide good cover. American plum trees are a great option because they offer forage and excellent cover. They also produce plums, which deer will feed on in the fall. Their leaves are about 86% digestible.

Another tree that works well is the wild persimmon, which also has fruit, foliage, and cover. Other trees that attract and sustain deer include the crab apple or apple tree, white oaks, red oaks, hickory, and pecan trees.

What To Do If You Find A Baby Deer

Most of us would want to help but don’t know how and may hurt the baby deer more than help. I found this video very informative. Taylor explains what to do if you find a baby deer and how you can (or can’t) help them.

Final Words

Deer are herbivores, and they eat different types of food throughout the year. Their primary foods are leaves and twigs from trees, but they also eat fruit, acorns, mushrooms, and forbs. Their diet changes according to the season so that their bodies get what they need to survive the winters.

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