What do deer eat?
Deer are part of the Cervidae family, which includes more than 50 species of deer. The different types of deer range from individuals weighing around 10 kg to huge ones around 800 kg. Originally, deer are native to the Americas, Asia, and Europe, with the exception of one species that is endemic to Africa. However, they have been introduced to many regions, so they now have a wider distribution and generally live in a wide variety of habitats, depending on the species.
Now, what do deer eat? They are herbivores? In this AnimalWised article we will explain what do deer eatso encourage yourself to continue reading to know all the details about this aspect.
Deer feeding type
deer they are ruminant mammalshence their diet is herbivorous, including different types and parts of plants. However, they also include fungi and lichens in their diet.
These animals have a true stomach and three additional chambers (or false stomachs) in which the fermentation of food occurs so that it can be broken down and obtain nutrients more efficiently. In the digestive process, lipids, proteins and carbohydrates are first extracted, substances that are distributed through the intestines to the rest of the body. Then, the undigested material forms a mass that is regurgitated to be chewed again and fully decomposed.
Deer, like all ruminants, live in a symbiotic association with microorganisms in their digestive systems, essential for breaking down the cellulase in the plant matter they eat so they can absorb nutrients. However, in general, deer digestive system is smaller than that of other ruminants, so their digestive processes are usually carried out in less time.
On the other hand, deer are capable of storing certain amounts of food in their stomachs for further processing. And, unlike other ruminants, They are more selective in the type of vegetation they eat, since they choose plants or parts of them that are easily digestible and do not take all the food that is available.
What do baby deer eat?
As we have mentioned, deer are mammalian animals, so at birth they are fed with mother’s milk. The female is usually the only one who provides care for the newborns, so she stays close to them, even when she feeds.
In this way, baby deer especially eat the milk provided by their mother. In relation to how long the lactation of the fawn lasts, it varies from one species to another because the smaller ones usually wean around 2 months, while the larger ones can last a little longer. Even though the young deer feed on vegetation, they may nurse intermittently for up to about seven months.
What do adult deer eat?
Deer are herbivorous animals specifically considered to be browsers, so they feed on grasses, sedges, herbaceous plants and trees. They take different organs or parts of plants, in addition, some species, depending on availability, consume mushrooms and lichens. These mammals preferentially opt for new shoots, young leaves, fresh branches and fruits, which are more easily digestible.
To better understand the diet of the deer, let’s know what some eat particular species of deer:
- water deer (hydropotes inermis): eats herbaceous plants, juvenile grasses, sedges, and certain vegetables such as beets.
- marsh deer (Blastocerus dichotomus): the largest proportion of their diet is made up of herbs and, secondly, legumes. It consumes aquatic and riparian vegetation.
- tufted deer (Elaphodus cephalophus): This deer eats leaves, branches, fruits, grasses, and other types of vegetation.
Since deer are part of the cervids, let’s also look at some examples of deer, reindeer, and elk:
- Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus): the diet varies according to the season, especially between summer and winter. Some foods are made up of willow and birch leaves, mushrooms, cotton grass, sedges, and lichens.
- White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus): This species has a very broad diet, including flower buds, maple twigs, sassafras, poplar, birch, shrubs, yucca, prickly pear, and various types of shrubs, among many other trees.
- red deer (american mazama): Their diet consists mainly of fruits and fibrous material. When the availability of these plants decreases, it includes fungi, stems, bark, leaves and animal remains.
- Moose (moose moose): it eats stems and branches of woody plants in winter, while in summer it consumes shoots and leaves of deciduous plants. Some plant species that it eats are: pine (Pinus silvestris), willows (Salix spp..), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), aspen (populus tremuloides) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea).
- european roe deer (Capreolus capreolus): This type of deer consumes a wide variety of plant types. Most are herbaceous dicotyledons, followed by woody plants and to a lesser extent monocotyledons. At certain times of the year it includes seeds and fruits.
Do deer eat meat?
Before you know that they are herbivores, you have probably wondered if deer eat meat. For a long time it has been thought that they are strict herbivores, but it has been possible to identify through the placement of camera traps that some species of deer eat meat scraps, which not only includes fish, rabbits or birds, but even humans. Some types of deer can also eat the eggs of birds that rest in nests within reach. However, if we talk specifically about deer, they tend to focus their diet solely on plant matter.
On the other hand, some deer live in areas adjacent to urbanizations or populated centers, so it is not surprising that when they come to snoop around the houses they can consume some remains of food left by people, so it is likely that deer eat bread, among other foods. Likewise, some have been domesticated and are unfortunately found in zoos, so if they are offered any food they will surely take it. However, it is not appropriate to do this, as certain foods may not be safe for them.
Now that you know what deer eat, don’t stop learning and discover in this other article Where deer live.
If you want to read more articles similar to What do deer eat?we recommend that you enter our section on balanced diets.
- Ellis-Felege, S.; Burnam, J.; Palmer, W.; Sison, D.; Wellendorf, S.; Thornton, R.; Stribling, H.; Carroll, J. (2008). Cameras Identify White-tailed Deer Predating Northern Bobwhite Nests, Southeastern Naturalist, 7(3), 562-564. Available at: https://bioone.org/journals/southeastern-naturalist/volume-7/issue-3/1528-7092-7.3.562/Cameras-Identify-White-tailed-Deer-Depredating-Northern-Bobwhite-Nests /10.1656/1528-7092-7.3.562.short?tab=ArticleLinkCited
- Holmes, K.; J. Jenkins; P.Mahalin; J.Berini (2011). deer. Animal Diversity Web. Available at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Cervidae/
- Ross, D. (2017). Never Before Seen: Spotted Deer Eating Human Bones. NatGeo. Available in: