In this article, we’ll answer the question:
“What do deer eat?”
First, you’ll find a short summary of what deer eat in nature, then get a list of a deer’s favorite foods that make up a typical deer diet. And finally, answers to common questions about deer feeding habits and nutrition.
Deer are herbivore mammals forming the family Cervidae under the Pecora infraorder of the Artiodactyla order. There are two main groups of deer called Cervinae (Old World Deer: muntjac, elk, red deer, and fallow deer) and Capreolinae (New World Deer: reindeer, white-tailed deer, roe deer, and moose).
What Do Deer Eat?
Deer eat crops, grasses, vegetation, acorns, nuts, twigs, leaves, vegetables, and fruits. Tree bark is also something deer eats, but only when food is scarce. A deer’s diet is determined by the availability of vegetation in its habitat.
Deer Diet (Favorite Foods)
- Hickory nuts
- Tree bark
- Woody plants
How Often Does a Deer Eat?
A deer often eats every four hours, especially when feeding on low-fiber foods. The frequency at which a deer eats depends on the amount of fiber in the food. If the diet comprises mainly high-fiber foods, such as nuts and tree tips, a deer will eat every seven hours.
How Much Do Deer Eat Per Day?
Deer eat 2 to 4 pounds of food per day on average. A deer can consume between 6% to 8% of its body weight every day. The food consumption rate of a deer corresponds to the body weight and the nature of foods available in the habitat.
How Long Can Deer Live Without Food?
Deer can live for up to a month without food. A deer can survive this long without food because their bodies accumulate fat that they use during food scarcity. The four-chambered stomach allows a deer to store and digest large amounts of food for prolonged survival.
According to this document on the University of Pennsylvania, “The first chamber, called the rumen, is for storage. The rumen allows for the deer to gather a lot of food at once and then digest it later. The deer bring the food back up into their mouth and chew it again.”
Do Deer Eat Apples?
Deer do eat apples and are palatable for deer in the wild. Apples are also perfectly safe for use in a deer feeder.
Do Deer Eat Carrots?
Deer do eat carrots and will consume the carrot leaves as well as the root of this vegetable. A carrot is a deer’s favorite root vegetable and deer will dig up carrots in gardens to eat them.
Do Deer Eat Meat?
Deer do not eat meat because they are herbivores and will not eat other animals. Deer feed primarily on the foliage of grasses, sedges, forbs, shrubs, and trees.
However, according to National Geographic, “In an unprecedented finding, researchers spotted a deer chewing on a human rib during a study aimed at examining how human remains decompose in the wild.”
It’s suspected that deer may pursue flesh when it’s available in nature if there is a lack of minerals like phosphorous, salt, calcium, especially in the winter months when plant life is scarce.
What Animals Eat Deer?
Deer are prey to a number of different species.
You can visit our other guide on what animals eat deer to find out which predators actively feed on these mammals.
Deer Eating Habits and Diet Summary
You now know what do deer eat in the wild as well as the typical food in a deer diet.
As you discovered in this guide, deer are herbivores that only feed on vegetation for nutrition with a deer’s favorite food being things like crops, grass, and nuts.
I’m the lead editor and writer for Animal Answer Guide. I enjoy sharing expert knowledge on the various characteristics of common species within the five distinct groups of animals: amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles.