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February 04, 2021 2 min read

Do deer eat lichen? Those gorgeous covers and queens of the fungi/algae world make beautiful additions to any landscape. But, how about their connections with deer? In this article, we will talk about deer and lichens.

Lichens have a special place in nature. They form excellent and often stunning covers on rocks, slopes, soil, and even trees. It’s no wonder you may also use them as decorations, dyes, and clothing. Some Native American tribes also eat lichens, while some people feed lichens to their pets. There are over 1,800 species and counting. It can be challenging to identify some species.

You can also find lichens alongside algae, liverworts, and moss in damp and shady spaces in our gardens. They grow on trees, stones, plants – both hard and soft areas. They won’t cause any harm and can usually be tolerated, especially as they add an earthy and primitive feel to your garden.

However, they do make ponds, borders, paths, and lawns somewhat unsightly and slippery. In those cases, they might be unnecessary.

Nevertheless, if you have them around you, you may be curious to know if deer also eat them. After all, they are widely known as voracious eaters. So, the question is – do deer eat lichen?

Deer and lichens

Deer eat lichens. In reality, lichens are common forage for deer, birds, elk, and insects. But, not all lichens are edible; many found in the wilds, such as the wolf lichen (Letharia vulpine), ground lichen (Parmelia molliuscula), are poisonous to some animals, especially those that are not native to the region where the lichen species originates.

Nonetheless, deer especially love the ‘Old man’s beard,’ which is a grey lichen that closely resembles the Spanish Moss. Lichen is an excellent winter menu item for deer. It is usually found growing on dying or dead balsam and spruce trees. Lichens are part fungi growths enriched with nutrients that can sustain the deer during the harsh winter months. Therefore, they make about 90 percent of the reindeer’s winter diet, mule deer and white-tail deer, elk, mountain goats, moose, and pronghorn antelope.

During other seasons, deer may not eat lichens as they don’t rank high on their spring and summer dinner choices.

Deer damage

Lichens are great additions to your gardens. They don’t just improve the aesthetics but can enhance the quality of air there. They will not harm the plants and trees they grow on, so you have nothing to worry about. However, deer are fond of lichen and may attract them into your gardens. This is not mainly a problem for your lichens but might be a problem for other vulnerable plants around. Suppose you are not tolerant of deer in your garden. Then ensure to use deer-resistant measures such as repellents or deer fencing to keep them away from your garden.

Concluding thoughts

Do deer eat lichen? Yes, they do. Lichens are enriched in carbs and other nutrients, making them a significant part of deer winter food.

Lichens also make excellent additions to your garden, offering that pure, unspoiled, and natural feel to it.


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