Do Deer Eat Bark? A Deep Dive into this Unusual Behavior

Yes, deer do eat bark, but it is not a common or preferred part of their diet. Bark-eating typically occurs in times of scarcity or desperation, when other food sources are limited or unavailable.

Bark, after all, is not exactly the most appetizing food source. Nevertheless, in times of desperation or scarcity, deer have been known to resort to eating bark as a means of survival.

In this blog post, we will explore the question “Do deer eat bark?” and uncover the truth behind this curious behavior.

Bark as a Food Source for Deer

do deer eat bark

Deer are typically known for their love of vegetation, with leaves, twigs, and buds making up the majority of their diet. However, bark can also be a food source for deer in certain circumstances.

Is Bark a Part of Deer’s Diet?

Bark is not a typical part of a deer’s diet, but it can be consumed when other food sources are scarce. In winter, for example, when vegetation is limited, deer may resort to eating bark to satisfy their hunger. In some instances, deer have been observed nibbling on the bark of young trees or saplings.

There have been numerous instances of deer eating bark recorded by wildlife biologists and nature enthusiasts.

In areas where food is limited, deer have been seen gnawing on the bark of various tree species, such as maple, oak, and birch. In some cases, deer have been known to completely strip the bark off a tree, causing significant damage to the tree’s health.

Reasons Why Deer May Turn to Bark as a Food Source Deer turn to bark as a food source when other options are unavailable or not accessible. This can occur during harsh winter months when vegetation is covered in snow and difficult to reach, or in areas with limited vegetation.

In some cases, deer may also be attracted to the sap in the bark, providing them with a source of sugar and nutrition.

[Related Article: Do Deer Eat Mums? The Truth About These Garden Pests]

Effects of Bark-Eating on Deer’s Health

The consumption of bark by deer can have both positive and negative effects on their health. On the one hand, bark provides roughage, which is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system.

However, bark is low in nutrients compared to other vegetation, which means that deer cannot rely on it as their primary food source.

Furthermore, bark-eating can lead to several health issues. For example, deer may ingest harmful substances such as pesticides or fungi that are present on the bark. They may also accidentally swallow splinters of bark, which can cause physical damage to their digestive system.

In addition, eating bark can also have an adverse effect on the health of the tree. Bark serves as the protective layer of the tree, preventing it from losing moisture and protecting it from disease.

If deer continue to nibble on the bark, it can weaken the tree, making it more susceptible to diseases and pest infestations.

While deer may turn to bark as a food source in times of scarcity, it is not a sustainable or healthy option. Bark does provide roughage, but it is low in nutrients and can lead to negative consequences for both deer and the trees.

It is important for deer to have access to a varied and balanced diet, which includes leaves, twigs, buds, and other vegetation.


So, to answer the question “Do deer eat bark?” – yes, they do. But it is important to remember that it is not a common or healthy behavior for them, and that they should always have access to a diverse range of vegetation to support their health and well-being.

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