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June 04, 2020 2 min read

The deer like other ruminants feed on a wide range of food. This is possible since being in the wild offers diverse feed materials. However, most deer lovers and deer hunters usually wish to know what deer prefer to eat and as such the question “do deer eat acorns?” can pop up during random conversations with fellow deer enthusiasts.

What are the common deer foods?

The deer can thrive in different biological habitats means that they can be seen in marshlands, tropical rain forests, the savannas etc. This also implies that their diet is partly based on availability. However, several sources agree on certain preferences. These include fruits and vegetables such as cabbage, tomatoes, apples, pear, persimmons etc to trees, herbs and shrubs like oaks, sweet corn, blackberry etc. Deer despite being liberal feeders usually avoid foods like rhubarbs, artichokes, asparagus, squash, sage etc. These foods are popularly known as deer-resistant plants.

Do deer eat acorns?

Because acorns are nuts produced by oak trees, the answer would be a yes. Acorns are a major source of fats and carbohydrates in the wild for the deer. This means that the deer can feed on these nuts during both seasons of plenty and scarcity. Deer are attracted to the acorn for reasons such as its immeasurable nutritional value, their abundance in most habitats and seasons and for the numerous variations in which they occur. In some areas, acorns have been estimated to constitute about 25% of the daily diet of a deer during the autumn and early winter periods. Acorns are also good protein sources and can be available almost all year round.

Type of acorns they prefer:

Although deer eat acorns, their preference is based on the type of oak tree from which the acorn comes from. This is because different oak trees produce acorns containing variable amounts of tannic acid. Tannic acid or tannins can affect the palatability of acorns. This is because the higher the levels of tannins present in an acorn, the more bitter it becomes hence the lower tannin-containing acorns are more palatable and preferred by the deer to the high tannin acorns.

Acorns can contain:

Low tannic acid e.g. white oak tree acorns

Low to medium tannic acid e.g. pin and water oak tree acorns

Medium tannic acid e.g. red oak tree acorn

Medium to high tannic acid e.g. black and bur oak tree acorns

High tannic acid e.g. live oak tree acorns

Can deer reject acorns?

Deer can refuse to eat acorns for two main reasons. The first is if the acorn has a high level of tannic acid while the second is if the acorn has started to go bad especially after some days of falling. In the absence of these, deer are normally known to feed on acorns.

This little bit of knowledge can, therefore, serve as a guide for deer hunters during the hunting season since they can locate deer around oak trees or use acorns in their deer traps. Deer lovers and wildlife conservationists can also key into this and plant a few white oak trees around to encourage the presence of the deer around their homes.