Here in the country suburban area of Barrington Illinois we are blessed with wildlife and birds and White Tailed Deer. For some the deer may be a nuisance, for others like me they are a wonder. White Tailed Deer may be attracted to your yard to eat and you can encourage them to come or discourage them if you like. Oh and even if you can, adding a fence is not going to stop them if you have goodies to eat, they’ll jump over!
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What do White Tailed Deer Eat?
First they are NOT grazers. They don’t eat grass. With heads bowed they are nuzzling in the grass to find broadleaf plants like clover and wildflower plants. They’ll eat nuts and acorns. None of these items are found in many yards, although in Barrington Hills where we have substantial sized trees, if there are Oak trees and it’s October when the acorns start to fall, you likely find some White Tailed Deer having breakfast or dinner.
As winter sets in and snow is on the ground, remember it’s not the grass the deer are missing, it’s everything else at ground level. So their search for food elevates and they’ll also track into new areas looking for food. Winters here are not as harsh as some areas but when you’re looking from a Deer’s eyes view, your main source of food has been eaten or covered.
What’s In Your Yard That’s Food For White Tails?
Bark from trees. Although not particularly nutritious it’s food nonetheless. While I have not seen deer eat bark during the summer, I know they eat it in the winter. This can harm your Maples and other trees, even kill them. So choose wisely and if your trees are important, then cover the trunks during winter. I’ve used wraps which seem to work well but hungry deer might chew them to get to the tree, split water drain pipes are more rigid.
Yew bushes. These things grow crazy in the summer and can get a pretty tough pruning by the deer in winter. In my mind the deer are welcome to them! Not a very pretty evergreen bush anyway and not the best food for deer, but they are above the snow. Don’t ever be surprised to look out your window and see a deer staring right back at you. He’s nibbling your Yews.
Arborvitae trees. These trees are a common hedging tree and grow moderately fast. Once they have established themselves take a long hard look and you’ll realize they are being eaten up to a certain height. They can end up looking like a lollipop tree. I’ve also seen them eat White Pine Fir Trees in the same manner.
Veggies & Fruit. If you’ve got a vegetable garden, be warned, garden veggies are a favorite for White Tailed Deer. Carrots, beets, cabbage, squash and if there’s fruit around it’s a tasty treat not going to passed up.
Bird Seed. Have you ever wondered how one minute you fill the bird feeder and the next is completely empty? Could be a squirrel but if it really has magically disappeared it’s more like a deer or two or more. You’ll have to get creative about keeping your seed for the birds. Deer can only reach to a certain height but their tongues will stretch to side swipe seeds from feeders. Make sure your feeders are really high.
Remember, when starving, White Tailed Deer will eat any food available, even if it’s not good for them.
What’s In Your Yard That White Tail Leave Alone?
My favorite tree is the Colorado Blue Spruce. Even when hungry the White Tailed Deer leave these alone. Here in Barrington the Colorado Blue Spruce is a common yard tree for decorative purposes as are Birch trees. The latter is probably the safest tree to plant from a deer resistant perspective.
A Treat For My White Tailed Deer
I am fond of most animals and deer are welcome to our yard. We have 2+ acres and back up to conservation and a creek. We do seem to be on the fall deer mating track too and the deer will start to group together and run through my neighborhood especially in November.
I’ll allow them access to my bird seed, we have a water trough, and blueberries will be added as a treat if I see them coming. This year we’ve had a couple of yearlings stop by very regularly for a bite to eat. They have to compete with the Sand Hill Cranes though, that family has been residing in my yard for about 8 years now.
White Tailed Deer Will Browse For Food
So now you know what to include and what to exclude from your yard depending on whether you want visitors or not. White Tailed Deer browse for food, if you don’t have any, they won’t be browsing long before they find us.