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Why Do Deer Eat My Plants?

Living in Northeast Ohio, you get used to being surrounded (or at least close to) nature, and when the sun is shining or the birds are chirping, there’s nowhere you’d rather be. Sometimes, though, our homes and the great outdoors start to fight for territory—namely from deer.

In neighborhoods like Beachwood or Shaker Heights, homeowners can quickly forget Bambi’s sweet face when they notice deer have made a meal out of their yard while leaving the neighbor’s untouched—or even more baffling, when they’ve targeted a specific flower bed but have left the others alone.  

So, why are they eating your yard in the first place?

They’re hungry.

That might sound like an oversimplification but during the summer months, herds of deer can go unnoticed because there is plenty of food available and more natural space for them to browse in. Deer are skittish creatures and would prefer to dine in quiet, protected areas instead of busy neighborhoods; however, when leaves start to fall as the season changes, food becomes scarcer.

There isn’t enough of their usual diet of under story plants, evergreens and twigs, so deer move to our landscapes. Not only is there a variety of plants at just the right height, but there is often a good mix of evergreen shrubs and supple twigs for them to eat. A full summer of irrigation and supplemental nutrients mean vigorously growing plants that often hold onto their leaves longer and taste better because they’ve been cared for.

Deer start by scouting for their favorite plants first (yes, they have favorite foods, too), beginning along their frequently traveled paths. As these supplies run short, the deer will likely begin to venture further from their comfortable paths to locate more food.  When they exhaust these resources, the deer will turn to plant material they normally ignore.

A starving deer will eat just about anything, especially towards the end of winter, so that’s why you’ll only find deer resistant plants—not deer proof—on your next trip to the nursery or grocery store.

Want to know the best ways to discourage deer from chewing on your favorite plants? Click here to find out.

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