In this guide, we’ll answer the question:
“What eats deer?”
First, you’ll find a short summary of what animals eat deer in the wild and then get a detailed list of deer predators.
Deer are hoofed ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. There are two main groups of deer called Cervinae and Capreolinae.
The Cervinae (or Old World Deer) includes the muntjac (barking deer), elk, red deer, and fallow deer. The Capreolinae includes (or New World Deer) includes the reindeer (caribou), white-tailed deer, roe deer, and moose.
The average lifespan for all types of deer is 10 years with a maximum age of 25.
What Eats Deer?
Animals that eat deer include bears, cougars, coyotes, eagles, jaguars, leopards, vultures, wild dogs, wolves, and humans. A deer has many natural predators and falls prey to a variety of species.
Bears are considered primary and apex predators, particularly in woodland areas.
Black bears in particular are known to hunt and kill large deer for food and will feed on the carcass for several days.
However, although bears are omnivorous animals, 70% of their diet comprises berries, herbs, grass, fruits, and other plants.
Cougars (also called mountain lions) feed on various animals, but studies show that deer are their favorite to hunt and kill.
Cougars are considered opportunistic hunters as they stealthily surprise their prey. The most common species of deer hunted by cougars are mule deer, bull moose, elk, and white-tailed deer.
Based on data from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, male cougars living in the Cascade Mountains kill a deer every 9 to 12 days, making them a common predator of deer.
Even though coyotes are smaller than deer, they possess enough strength and hunting power to subdue a deer, especially during spring and winter in snowing regions.
According to research on stomach samples conducted by Shippensburg University, coyotes eat deer more than any other animal, making them one of the top deer predators.
Because of their small stature, coyotes target smaller deer and fawns, but sometimes hunt in a pack when they are attempting to take down a larger deer like a buck.
Birds of prey like eagles occasionally attack full-sized deer but more often target those that are hurt, young, or disabled.
Most commonly, eagles will strike swiftly and capture a baby deer that strays away from the herd.
Jaguars and deer rarely exist in the same habitat, but these opportunistic carnivores use their sheer speed and strength to catch a deer when they meet.
Deer are among the 80 to 85 species of animals that jaguars hunt.
Leopards are night hunters that prefer mid-sized animals but occasionally pounce on unsuspecting deer that are grazing during the day.
If a leopard spots a sleeping deer at night, then it’s a much easier kill.
Leopards also rely on their ability to climb trees to attack a deer from overhead where they least suspect it.
Vultures do not hunt live deer but will clean up a deer carcass that has been killed by another predator.
African wild dogs pride themselves on being the best animal hunters in Africa, including deer.
However, wild dogs have limited options for deer species to hunt since the only one available is the Barbary stag (a subspecies of red deer), commonly found in the Atlas Mountains.
Wolves are the toughest and fiercest animals to deer because they are found in the same habitat.
Furthermore, wolves are always looking for easy prey at night when they hunt.
Since wolves typically hunt in packs, they can take down a deer weighing between 150 and 300 pounds. However, a lone wolf is also known for attacking and eating smaller deer like fawns and juveniles.
In the United States, it’s estimated that each wolf hunts down approximately 15 to 19 white-tailed deer ear year, which is a primary source of food.
Humans pose a great threat to the deer population as hunters kill around 6 million white-tailed deer every year.
Humans not only hunt deer for food but also as a sporting activity. And they are responsible for the decline in the deer population in urban areas.
Not only are humans the primary hunters of deer, but they are also one of their biggest eaters of deer too.
What Do Deer Eat?
Deer are herbivores that must eat vegetation to survive.
You can visit our other guide on what do deer eat to find out more about what these mammals feed on for nutrition.
Animals That Eat Deer Summary
You now know what eats deer in the wild and which species are the top deer predators.
As you discovered in this guide, there are about 10 animals that eat deer in nature. Even though deer are swift and agile, they cannot escape from faster and stronger predators.
And the inability to fend off attacks from predators makes them suitable prey for these animals.
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.