Deer diet, as with most wild animals is quite varied. They are more often than not browsers, meaning they prefer foods that are 12 inches are taller above ground, but they will graze if needed. They prefer grasses, vines, shrubs, fruits eating all parts of the plant including woody stems. They enjoy plants over animal foods and have quite the appetite. How does this translate to your yard? Deer will eat just about any vegetable in your garden, save for the pungent ones such as garlic and onions, but a truly hungry animal will eat any food. They will eat the leaves off your fruit trees and in the winter the twigs from them, too!
Nutritional value of the foods deer eat is very important to the survival and viability of the species. Deer who do not get the proper nutritional balance will fall prey to diseases quickly.
As an herbivore, these large mammals eat only plants. In the wild they prefer Osage orange, oaks, sumacs in the south. In the Northeast white cedar, white pine, maples, yellow birch, dogwoods and vibirnum, sumac, aspen, jack pine, oaks, ash, white birch, witch hazel. The best grain crops and grasses include oats, wheat and rye and bluegrass, brome grass and cheat grass. On the smaller side they will partake quite joyfully in alfalfa, bluebells, burnet, cloves, dandelion and wild lettuce, sweet clover and onions.
The leaves and twigs of shrubs preferred by deer include bitterbrush, buckwheat, dogwood, serviceberries’, sagebrush and willows.
Trees including crabapple, apple and chokecherry have leaves and fruits much appreciated by deer, too. Mushrooms are eaten, as well.
In your vegetable garden they enjoy beans, peas, pansies, impatiens, geraniums, and just about everything you can grow.
Deer Diet-Physical Attributes
Deer diet is comprised of a lot of low nutrient foods. To help them make the most of this menu the deer are equipped with a four (4) chambered stomach. Deer are considered ruminant animals or animals that chew their food twice. Basically the process involves the food entering the first stomach where it is softened. The food than is regurgitated up and back into the mouth where it is chewed again. This second generation food is call “cud”. The deer then will swallow its food again which will then enter the second part of the stomach, then the third, followed by forth each of which perform more digested.
With over 40 percent of a deer’s energy coming from food absorbed in its first stomach it is not difficult to correlate overall health of the animals based on the available food supply.
Deer Diet-Seasonal Variances
Food sources available in the fall, winter, and early spring are most critical to deer because they affect body condition, winter survival, and reproduction. During these seasons, deer browse on the leaves, needles, buds, and twig ends of trees and shrubs. During these periods nuts and tree buds become a very important part of the deer diet.
Overall these mammals will enjoy eating acorns, nuts, fruits and green plants in the summer, evergreens and grasses in the fall, and switching over to woody plants in the winter.
Whether or not they visit your yard may actually depend on the seasonal variations of your location. You may find deer more frequent in your landscape if you live in mountainous areas for their normal food supply is buried beneath a deep layer of snow. If you have a regular dry season, deer will be more apt to venture into yards during the dry seasons versus the rainy seasons.
Deer Diet-Benefits and Detriments to Humans and the Ecosystem
The deer diet has many detriments to humans, due for the most part to their ability to eat most any plant in sight. This type of diet can cause harm to backyard gardens and farmers crops.