Whitetail Deer Food Habitats

White-tailed deer feed on a variety of vegetation, depending on what is available in their habitat. Deer will eat a variety of plants, typically seeking out the most nutritious plants available. Whitetail food habitat studies have documented hundreds of plant species in stomach samplings across their range. In eastern woodlands, buds and twigs of maple, sassafras, poplar, aspen and birch are consumed, as well as many shrubs.

In southwest arid areas, plants such as huajillo brush, yucca, prickly pear cactus, coma, retama and various tough shrubs may be the main components of a whitetail's diet. Conifers and white cedar are often utilized in northern winters, when other foods are scarce. Grasses are only eaten by whitetail when very young and green. Forbs (broadleaf weeds) are highly preferred whenever available. The mast of oaks (acorns), beech, crabapple and persimmon are also highly preferred.

Whitetailed deer are ungulates and ruminants. They eat as quickly as they can while foraging, then While resting they regurgitate the food they took in for more thorough chewing. This feeding strategy exposes them to danger for the shortest period of time.

Whitetail deer have a four compartment stomach. Each time the food is chewed, it is swallowed into a different part of the stomach. Each part performs a different function in digestion. Unlike humans, whose bodies actually produce the chemicals that break down their food, deer have microorganisms living in their digestive system that break down the food to where the deer can absorb the nutrition from it. It takes different types of organisms to break down each type of food, so a deer must switch from one food source to another slowly, so that specific organism can build up to the point where that food can be used.

Whitetail Food and Water Needs

A whitetail deer can actually starve with a belly full of food if that food is not what it has been eating lately. Remember this fact and always start fall/winter feeding of deer slowly, and then wean them from it slowly later. Food really must be a habit for this species!

Whitetail deer will readily make use of surface water when it is available, but can usually get enough water from the food they eat to sustain themselves for long periods without any surface water at all. In fact, the desert subspecies like Coues Deer and Carmen Mountain Whitetails are especially adapted to this. In most areas, deer are closely associated with riparian areas such as rivers and drainages, but usually more because of a deer's food habits than the water. These nutrient-rich soils are usually home to a variety of high quality forb and browse plant species.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed deer are the smallest members of the North American deer family. Whitetail are found from southern Canada to South America. They are an important part of the landscape in all areas where they are found. During summer months deer often use fields and meadows, searching for forbs high in protein, but whitetail deer are primarily browsers. Read more...

Types of Deer for Sale