What do whitetail deer eat?

What do whitetail deer eat?

Whitetail deer are herbivores, meaning they primarily eat plant-based foods. Their diet varies depending on factors such as the season, availability of food sources, habitat, and geographic location. Here are some common foods that whitetail deer eat:

  1. Browse: Whitetail deer feed on the leaves, twigs, and shoots of woody plants such as shrubs, saplings, and young trees. They use their browsing behavior to obtain essential nutrients, including protein, carbohydrates, and minerals.
  2. Forbs: Forbs are broad-leaved herbaceous plants that grow in meadows, fields, and open woodlands. Whitetail deer consume a variety of forbs, including wildflowers, grasses, sedges, and legumes, which provide essential vitamins and minerals.
  3. Grasses: Grasses are a significant part of the whitetail deer’s diet, especially during the spring and summer months when they are lush and abundant. Deer feed on a variety of grass species, including pasture grasses, meadow grasses, and native grasses.
  4. Agricultural Crops: Whitetail deer are known to feed on agricultural crops such as corn, soybeans, alfalfa, clover, wheat, oats, and other cultivated plants. Crop depredation by deer can be a concern for farmers and gardeners, especially during the growing season.
  5. Fruits and Berries: Deer consume a variety of fruits, berries, and nuts, including apples, acorns, persimmons, blackberries, raspberries, grapes, and hickory nuts. These foods provide essential carbohydrates and sugars, particularly in the fall when they are ripening.
  6. Mast: Mast refers to the nuts, seeds, and fruits produced by trees such as oak, hickory, beech, and walnut. Whitetail deer rely on mast as a high-energy food source, especially in the late summer and fall when these foods are abundant.
  7. Fungi: Whitetail deer occasionally feed on fungi such as mushrooms and truffles, especially during times of food scarcity or when other food sources are limited.
  8. Aquatic Plants: In some regions, whitetail deer may feed on aquatic plants such as water lilies, cattails, and sedges found in wetland habitats, streams, and ponds.

Whitetail deer are opportunistic feeders and will adapt their diet to the available food sources in their habitat. Their ability to consume a wide variety of plant foods allows them to survive and thrive in diverse ecosystems ranging from forests and grasslands to agricultural and suburban landscapes.


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