Plant Answers  >  Do Deer Eat Grass?

Maybe you assume that grass must be one of the white-tailed deer’s favorite foods. Maybe these cervids even munch on your lawn. But that isn’t the whole story. The truth is while the answer is yes, deer do sometimes eat grass, but it isn’t one of their favorite foods. So, why do they eat it? And most importantly, how can you stop them from eating your lawn?

Deer may eat grass when they can’t find an adequate supply of their preferred foods. While they’ll eat it if they need to, grass has low nutrient value for deer.

A deer’s body is not very well adapted to consuming large amounts of grass.

To better understand why, when, and why deer eat grass, let’s take a look at their eating habits and the factors that influence a deer’s diet.

Yes, White-Tailed Deer Eat Grass

Like other kinds of deer, white-tailed deer will eat grass if they can’t get access to their preferred foods.

Deer that live in more forested areas will have better access to shrubs and trees than deer living in grassier areas. As a result, they tend to eat less grass and are less likely to become a pest and raid your lawn.

The geographic region a deer lives in plays a part in how much grass the animal is likely to eat.

Deer Grazing

NOTE: This CRAZY (!!) doe should be eliminated ASAP before she teaches
her innocent little fawns that they can eat grass—this is the way that bad
habits get started!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For example, studies have shown that deer in the southwestern areas of North America tend to eat more grass than, for example, Canadian deer.

Deer diets also change by the time of year. This makes sense, as the availability of their food sources changes seasonally.

How Grass Fits into a Deer’s Diet

Deer are herbivores, meaning they eat plants. This differs from omnivores, animals that eat a mixture of meat and plants, and carnivores, animals that eat only meat.

Among herbivores, there are several subcategories.

Deer are considered ruminants, a type of herbivore that is defined by its unique digestive system. Ruminants consume a variety of plant types.

Whereas some ruminants such as sheep or cows, have trouble eating any plants except grass, deer eat a variety of plants. The deer’s favorite foods are leaves on trees and shrubs.

These are easier to digest and have the most nutrients. Deer also eat fruits and berries, which provide them with sugar and large amounts of energy.

While grass is very high in fiber, its nutritional profile is poor.

Grass is Hard for Deer to Digest

Deer Grazing

While white-tailed deer and cows are both ruminants, their digestive systems are quite different. One major difference is how the deer’s rumen has drastically less capacity than a cow’s rumen.

As a result, it’s best for deer to eat much more often. Grass takes too long to digest for deer to do this.

With its much larger rumen, cows can afford to consume large amounts of cellulose (what you find in grass, which is high-fiber). It can stay in that animal’s rumen for the long periods of time necessary to digest that kind of tough material.

Cow rumens (and teeth) are equipped to thoroughly grind and efficiently digest grass. Deer don’t have these attributes.

Despite all this, though, if a deer is hungry enough and can’t find better sources of nutrition, your lawn is fair game.

They Prefer Certain Kinds of Grass

There are specific kinds of grass that are easier for deer to eat. these include succulent types of grass, as well as grass that has only recently sprouted. Other kinds of grass that deer eat more often include:
  • Rescuegrass
  • Panicgrass
  • Witchgrass

Deer Grazing

NOTE: These three images were taken by Forrest Appleton per my request on 4/24/2006 in Hollywood Park.
This may be the first documentation of deer eating grass in Texas BECAUSE I KNOW the deer didn’t used to eat grass--- THE SO-CALLED EXPERTS TOLD ME SO!!!!

Deer Grazing
Deer Grazing
Deer Grazing
Deer Grazing

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