If you’ve got some nice big pumpkins outside, you may have noticed that something has taken a nibble or two from them overnight. You suspect that it may be a deer. So now you’re wondering ‘do deer eat pumpkins?
Deer do eat pumpkins especially the seeds and guts inside. As a deer’s diet consists mainly of vegetation and fruit, pumpkins are an ideal food for them. Pumpkins will provide deer with energy and nutrients to help bone and antler growth. Deer will eat both the fruit and pumpkin plants.
Now you may be wondering why deer love the pumpkins so much. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about deer eating pumpkins. Whether that’s because you’re trying to attract them or trying to stop them from eating your crops.
So let’s get started.
Can Deer eat pumpkin?
Deer can eat pumpkins without much help. Deer have a mouth that is designed for eating vegetation and fruits such as pumpkin.
They will mostly start with the green parts of the plant such as the leaves, bud, and any immature pumpkin fruits.
Once the pumpkins are fully grown the deer may find it harder to eat. Yet they will gnaw away at the skin until they get to the soft, gooey guts and seeds inside.
Are Pumpkins safe for deer?
Fresh, raw pumpkins are safe for deer to eat. If you’re offering deer an old Halloween jack-o-lantern make sure it’s safe to eat first. Remove any candles and wax as well as scorched or burnt areas.
Cutting up old jack-o-lanterns and scattering them in forest areas is good for your local wildlife. It’s better than them filling up your trashcans or rotting away on your porch.
Old rotten pumpkins may be unsafe for deer by carrying mold which can make them ill. If your pumpkin is showing signs of mold it’s better to use it for compost rather than deer food.
Are Pumpkins Good For Deer?
Deer enjoy eating pumpkin leaves and guts as they are soft and sweet. Pumpkins are also crammed full of nutrients that help deer to stay healthy.
Nutrients deer get from pumpkins are:
- Vitamins A, B, C, and E
Pumpkin fruit is also a source of protein and at 90% water an excellent source of hydration for deer.
The vitamins and mineral the deer get from pumpkins helps them to grow a thick healthy fur for winter and also keep their bones and antler strong.
When Do Deer Eat pumpkins?
Deer will eat pumpkins at any time of year. During the summer months, they will easily destroy a growing crop of shoots and young fruits.
During the Autumn month’s deer will eat both the leaves and the mature pumpkin fruits. Pumpkins are mostly harvested around Halloween time and they have a good supply of them around.
When deer have a good supply of pumpkins in the summer and autumn months it helps them to bulk up in preparation for the winter.
Just be aware that offering pumpkins to deer can also attract other hungry wildlife such as:
Parts of the Pumpkin Deer Eat
Pumpkins are made up of lots of different parts, so don’t just think the fruit is the only part the deer will eat. Let’s go through each part of the pumpkin.
Do Deer Eat Pumpkin Flesh?
Deer like to eat the soft juicy flesh inside a pumpkin. The flesh is normally soft and easy for the deer to eat.
The flesh is one of the parts of the pumpkins that contain the most nutrients.
Do deer eat Pumpkin Skin?
Deer aren’t as keen on the tough outer pumpkin skin. Yet they will eat it as a way to get into the soft center that they like. Pumpkin skin is not toxic to deer. However, it can be quite bitter, tough, and fibrous for them to chew through.
Be aware that any store-bought pumpkins may have pesticide chemicals on the outer skin. If you think you’ll offer your jack-o-lantern to a deer after Halloween, then I recommend giving it a good wash first. This will remove any chemical residue which may harm the deer.
Although deer aren’t a fan of mature pumpkin skin, they will happily eat a young fruit when it’s unripe and still green. At this stage, the skin is soft enough for them to enjoy.
Do deer eat pumpkin seeds?
The stringy mass of seeds and guts inside the pumpkin is the part they like best. All that soft, gooey flesh and seeds are crammed full of nutrients for the deer.
If you want to offer an old Halloween pumpkin to the deer, try to keep the seeds you scoop put and offer it alongside the cut-up pumpkin fruit.
Do deer eat pumpkin Leaves?
If you suspect a deer is eating your pumpkin crops then you’ll notice the leaves disappearing first. Deer will eat the leaves of any pumpkin plant before moving onto the fruit.
The younger the leaves the better. Deer really enjoy eating soft green shoots and buds before they get a chance to mature.
Do deer eat pumpkin flowers?
Deer love to eat pumpkin flowers. They are soft and sweet, just as deer like them. If deer get access to a pumpkin patch with leaves and flowers they will wipe them clean from the plant.
They won’t hang around and will happily chomp away at both pumpkin blossoms and buds.
This can be a problem if you’re trying to grow a healthy crop of pumpkins.
Do Deer Eat pumpkin vines?
The vine of the pumpkins is often the only part of the plant that the deer won’t eat. That’s because pumpkin vines are thick, fibrous, and fuzzy. Deer don’t really like fuzzy parts on plants.
They’ll happily choose the leaves, flowers, and fruit over the vine. Once a deer is done, a bare-looking vine is usually all that’s left.
The occasional pruning of a pumpkin vine by a deer may be beneficial to helping you grow strong and healthy pumpkins. Yet, if they come back night after night your plants will have no chance.
Deer Eating Pumpkins
How to prepare a pumpkin for Deer
You can place a whole pumpkin down for a deer to eat. The likelihood is that without the leaves and flowers they’ll probably avoid it.
The best way to offer the pumpkin up to a deer is to cut it up into medium or large chunks so the inside flesh and guts are exposed. Try to keep the guts together with the pumpkin if possible as this is their favorite part.
Don’t offer a deer any bits of pumpkins with:
- Burn/scorch marks
If you can try to clean up the pumpkin as much as possible before offering it to a deer.
I would recommend you take the pumpkin into a forest area rather than putting it out in your yard. Offering food to deer in your yard can attract other wildlife and may result in you needing to clean up or repair damaged property.
How to stop deer eating your pumpkin plants
The best way to stop deer from eating your pumpkin plants is to deter them from your yard in the first place. Check out my article on 14 ways to keep deer out of your garden.
A good food source such as a pumpkin patch is a sure-fire way to attract hungry wildlife to your yard. Yet you can try a combination of deterrents to get the best effect from them.
If you have a herd of very persistent deer in your area, then it’s likely you’ll need a physical barrier between the deer and your pumpkin patch.
One inexpensive barrier is to use a fishing line (like this) tied horizontally between wooden stakes. The deer won’t see the wire and will get frightened by the sensation as it touches their legs, neck, or head.
Deer enjoy eating pumpkins and they can be a very healthy part of their diet. You’ll find that the deer prefer soft pumpkin parts like seeds, guts, flowers, and leaves.
You can offer up old jack-o-lanterns for deer to eat after Halloween. But make sure you clean them up and make it safe for deer to eat.
Try not to attract deer into your yard to eat. Instead, take the pumpkin to them rather than enticing them to eat in urban areas. If you have a pumpkin patch that deer are attracted to, then try to use methods to deter deer so they’ll leave your plants alone.
If you want to learn more check out my guide on what deer eat in the wild.