do deers eat trees

Do Deers Eat Trees?

Written by: Gemmali Dizor

The short answer to the question of whether deer eat trees is yes, they do. However, it is important to note that deer do not feed on trees in the traditional sense, as they are herbivores and primarily feed on leaves, stems, and shoots of plants. But in certain circumstances, deer can cause damage to trees and even kill them by nibbling on the bark, browsing on twigs and branches, and rubbing their antlers against the trunk.

Why do deer nibble on tree bark?

Deer are known to nibble on the bark of young trees, particularly in the winter when their food sources are scarce. The bark of trees contains salt and other minerals that are important for the deer’s health and survival, and the animals will often return to the same trees to feed on the bark. This nibbling can cause significant damage to the trees, as it can girdle the trunk, preventing the tree from transporting water and nutrients from the roots to the branches and leaves.

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Browsing on Twigs and Branches

Another way that deer can damage trees is by browsing twigs and branches. This type of feeding can cause deformities in the tree’s growth and reduce its overall health. In severe cases, browsing can result in the death of the tree, particularly if the tree is already weakened by other factors such as disease, drought, or pest infestations.

Rubbing Antlers Against the Trunk

Male deer, particularly during the fall mating season, will often rub their antlers against the trunk of trees to mark their territory and attract mates. This rubbing can cause significant damage to the tree, stripping away the bark and exposing the inner wood to disease and pests. In some cases, the tree may not survive the damage caused by antler rubbing.

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Protecting Trees from Deer Damage

There are several methods that can be used to protect trees from deer damage. One of the most effective is to install physical barriers, such as fences or tree shelters, around the tree to prevent deer from accessing the trunk and branches. Another option is to use deer repellent sprays or granules, which emit an unpleasant odor that deters deer from feeding on the tree.

In addition to these physical and chemical methods, it is also important to choose tree species that are less attractive to deer. For example, some trees, such as Dogwood, are not preferred by deer and are less likely to be damaged by them. Planting a diverse range of trees, shrubs, and other plants can also help to reduce deer browsing pressure on individual trees, as the deer will have more food sources available to them.


Deer do indeed eat trees, but not in the traditional sense. They can cause significant damage to trees by nibbling on the bark, browsing on twigs and branches, and rubbing their antlers against the trunk. To protect trees from deer damage, it is important to use physical barriers, and repellents, and to choose tree species that are less attractive to deer. By taking these steps, it is possible to preserve the health and beauty of your trees, even in areas where deer populations are high.

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