WHAT ANIMALS EAT TREES?

Written by: Akeem Eletu
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Animals that eat trees are either herbivores or omnivores. Herbivores are animal species that primarily eat vegetation. Herbivores typically range from tiny insects like aphids to massive elephants. They often have physical characteristics that aid in digesting tough, fibrous plant matter. On the other hand, omnivores are also herbivores, but they indulge in meat too.

Some of these animals that feed on plant matter are called ruminants. A list of which animals eat trees includes deer, giraffes, camels, and cattle. Their stomachs have many specialized organs for digesting tough plant materials like trees. 

Read on to get a list of animals that indulge in trees.

WHAT ANIMALS EAT TREES?

The whole tree is what interests these animals. The following are some animals that fall under the category of tree-eaters.

SQUIRRELS

Squirrels prefer plant stalks and branches that are fragile and young, soft twigs, and elastic bark. Succulent flower buds, newly unfurled leaves, sprouts, and soft new growth tips will all attract a passing squirrel’s attention combing the area.

They could wreak havoc on trees by nibbling at the stem to reach the delicious, sap-filled layers (phloem tissue) beneath the bark. 

This act can cause the movement of sugars surrounding the plant to end, and the tree will perish. Tree growth will be slowed or halted if the bark and related tissue are removed. But squirrels do not care much for the tree as it does for them.

Squirrels have an astounding variety of food, including buds, nuts, and a wide range of shrubs, but trees can never be taken off the list. Cedar, Butternut, Spruce, Mulberry, Elm, and Hackberry are among the squirrel’s favorites.

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PORCUPINES

Porcupines mainly feed on bark, twigs, and buds from trees in the dense forest. They prefer cottonwoods, willows, spruces, Douglas-firs, and true firs. 

However, depending on the season, they will eat almost any type of vegetation. This includes needles, leaves, and even the reproductive parts of the tree. Like beavers, they also eat the nutrient-dense inner bark of trees, known as the phloem tissues.

You can identify a porcupine’s presence quickly, as they usually remove the tree’s bark down to the cambium layer, where the wood originates. Once this bark is removed, the tree may gradually die, but the porcupines will be fed.

While they may constantly cause headaches to homeowners with ornamental trees, their presence in the forest helps the ecosystem’s function and diversity. The damage they cause can restrict the growth of trees in the woods, allowing daylight penetration. But that is not a justification.

BLACK BEARS

Although almost all bear species enjoy trees, the black bear is notorious for loving and eating trees. Trees take up a large part of their diet. A single bear can peel the bark off typically 70 trees every day, wreaking havoc on the tree’s health and the economic value of timber. But they do it for food.

Generally, black bears will feed on trees because they hardly find food in abundance after emerging from hibernation. They turn to trees that provide them with carbohydrates in the springtime.

A bear would commonly taste a tree early in the season, then return several weeks later to peel the bark, usually when the sugar content is higher. They use their strong claws to remove tree bark and scrape the sapwood out from older woods with their teeth to ingest it.

Bear activity is indicated by strewn bark at the bottom of the tree, vertical marks on trees, and tree stumps from teeth.

DEERS

Although white-tailed deer are a beautiful sight in the forests, they cause significant damage to trees. Deer consume the winter foliage of many evergreen trees and shrubs, such as arborvitae and yews, and hostas and other perennials throughout the summer.

They feed on the bark of trees and any other twigs, buds, acorns, and berries that they can get from the trees too. Unfortunately, their eating habits can severely impact forestry systems at times. 

Deer can hinder the regular establishment of new woods by eating young trees. Deer rely on their sense of touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing to help them seek food and survive. They are famous for their incredible sense of smell, so they solely depend on it to find the “delicious” trees for a feast.

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BEAVERS

Researchers have found that a beaver’s favorite tree to feed on is the aspen tree. For the first six weeks after birth, beavers depend exclusively on their mother’s milk. But soon enough, they begin to eat other items such as leaves, bark, and the inner bark of trees.

Their diet also includes birch, alder, cottonwood, and willow. They do not like coniferous trees like pine and spruce. But when that is the only available food source, it becomes the preferred one.

ELEPHANTS

Elephants eat trees, and they love to consume leaves and twigs. They usually chew the bark off medium-sized branches and strip the bark off massive logs using their tusks.

Unlike other animals that are either browsers or grazers, elephants are both. They eat trees so conveniently that they leave trails, making it easy to identify where they have been. This is because they consume practically every part of a plant. They nibble on the entire tree, not just the leaves.

You can find trees victimized by elephants uprooted, lying on their side, with their trunks snapped in two. When you see this, you have every right to believe that elephants just had a feast in the area.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This list of which animals eat trees may not be exhaustive but it is a good starting point.

These tree eaters have specialized body parts that help them tear off the bark to get to the soft woody tissues and any other choice parts of the tree that they may prefer. Although they are tree eaters, the likelihood of eating trees is significantly reduced during the seasons when more succulent food sources are in abundance.

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