What Do Deer Eat?

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, except for 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 Best Pets Lover article, we will explain what do deer eat, so keep reading to find out all the details about this aspect.

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What do deer eat?

Deer are animals that run through the mountains and are herbivorous because of their diet, that is, they feed on different plants and also on grass.

These animals have the characteristic of being able to adapt their diet to what is available to them.

For this reason, at certain times during the year when there are fewer plants or herbs, they can use other products of the earth such as acorns, berries, or shrubs to feed themselves.

Deer use the night to feed since they have good night vision and feel more protected in the dark in the face of possible problems with predators that want to hunt them. Although they can also be seen eating while the sun is high.

Deer feeding type

Deer are ruminant mammals, so their diet is herbivorous, including different types and parts of plants. But they also consume lichens and fungus in their diet.

These animals have a true stomach and three additional chambers (or false stomachs) in which fermentation of food occurs so that nutrients can be broken down and obtained 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, the digestive system of deer is smaller than that of other ruminants, so their digestive processes tend to take place 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, as they choose plants or parts of them that are easily digestible and do take only a portion of the food that is offered.

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Deer feeding and its problems

Deer can adapt their diet depending on what is nearby, and this can be a problem, especially at times of the year when finding food can be difficult.

This mountain animal, unlike other animals, stays where it is even if it is difficult for it to find food, instead of moving in search of it.

So in the winter or summer, when scorching cold or heat and lack of rain can cause plants to dry out, minimizing the chance of finding food, deer can devastate nearby farmers’ fields.

On the other hand, when spring arrives, finding food and other necessary resources such as water is easier for them, so they tend to increase their intake of grass.

As deer are capable of adapting their diet, autumn is also another time of the year in which they can feed on other products such as acorns, chestnuts, or other types of fruits from the trees that they find in their path.

What do baby deer eat?

As we have mentioned, deer are mammals, so when they are born they are fed with their 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 them.

In this way, baby deer especially eat the milk provided by their mother. About 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.

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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 fungi 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 particular species of deer eat :

  • Water deer ( Hydropotes inermis ) – eats herbaceous plants, juvenile grasses, sedges, and certain vegetables such as beets.
  • Marsh deer ( Blastocerus dichotomus ) – The largest proportion of its diet is made up of grasses, and secondarily legumes. It consumes aquatic and riparian vegetation.    
  • Tufted Deer ( Elaphodus cephalophus ) – This deer eats leaves, twigs, fruit, grasses, and other vegetation. Since deer are part of the cervids, let’s also look at some examples of deer, reindeer, and elk:
  • Reindeer ( Rangifer tarandus ) – Diet varies seasonally, 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 cocoons, maple twigs, sassafras, cottonwood, birch, shrubs, yucca, prickly pear cactus, and various types of shrubs, among many other trees.
  • Red deer ( Mazama Americana ) – Their diet consists mainly of fruit and fibrous material. When the availability of these plants decreases, it includes fungi, stems, bark, leaves, and animal remains.
  • Moose ( Alces alces ) – 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 ).
  • The European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) eats several different kinds of plants. Most are herbaceous dicotyledons, followed by woody plants and to a lesser extent monocotyledons. It contains seeds and fruits at certain times of the year.

Do deer eat meat?

Before you know they are herbivores, you’ve 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 consume meat remains, which not only include 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 deer likely 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.

In short, what does a deer eat?

An overview of a deer’s feeding is based on the following:

  • Leaves (of plants, trees, and shrubs) (of plants, trees, and shrubs).
  • Fruits (acorns, chestnuts).
  • Berries.

They are herbivores and ruminants, and they need a large amount of food because much of what they eat is evacuated very easily.

The typical scene in documentaries, in which this beautiful mountain animal is seen chewing its food and grazing calmly, is authentic. These beautiful animals feed in a very natural way that allows them to acquire that great beauty, regal bearing, and delicious meat.

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