What Do Deer Eat?
Deer or more properly true deer are truly hoofed mammals belonging to the genus Cervus. These animals have antlers, which they shed periodically, growing larger with each shedding.
They are among the most popular game animals. There are about twelve species of deer in North America with the largest species being the white-tailed deer. The three subspecies of deer include the adaptable deer (including the western black-thorn buck), the cervo-olor deer (including the long-tailed and white-tailed deer), and the state species of deer.
Deer shed their antlers during the winter months, while the longer-term sheds happen in the summertime. Deer spend about two weeks shedding their antlers but will re-grow them in the following year, as well as retain them for years to come.
Typically, these antlers are about one and a half feet in length, although some will be larger. Males will have larger antlers than females.
A whitetail deer’s nose is an adaptation that makes it better able to detect food. Its large forehead and hooked front claws enable it to grab small insects and worms while foraging.
Deer are known as active hunters. During the winter months, when food is scarce, they will look for sustenance in the snow. In the northern United States, deer get most of their food through deer feeds. Deer droppings contain valuable nutrients that help plants grow, such as calcium and phosphorous.
Herbivores (eaters of plant material) and browsers (eaters of plant leaves and shoots) make up the major difference between deer types. While browsing, deer frequently chew on twigs, leaves, bark, branches, stalks, seeds, nuts, grasses, weeds, and carrion.
Herbivores usually eat more than browsers, since plant material provides essential nutrition, while browsing consumes plant material only. Commonly eaten components include root crops, hay, alfalfa, cabbage, cress, chicory, horseradish, nettles, oatmeal, ryegrass, and wintercress.
Antlerless deer species grow longer during the late spring and fall seasons, as they prepare for their long hibernation. While deer will not consume their own antlers, they will gnaw on any wood that comes to their vicinity. In fact, when a plant is gnawed on too much, portions of it will grow back on other parts of the plant.
The antlers are therefore not eaten by the deer; they are used to sharpen their teeth, keep their coats from falling off, attract birds to their feeders, or for other uses.
Deer antlers are not shed by most species. Some, however, do shed small quantities of antlers during molting.
These shed antlers usually contain calcium carbonate, which is deposited on forest floors, making them a potential source of contamination with prescription drugs. To reduce the risks of contamination, pharmaceutical manufacturers have developed antler formulas that contain minimal amounts of prescription drugs.