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Do Deer Eat Pumpkin & Which Part Do They Love The Most?

Elusive deer are usually hard to catch due to their speed and sharp ears. Interestingly, certain foods may attract deer. Find out in this post if deer eat pumpkins and what are the things you should remember when dealing with these elusive mammals.

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Q: Do Deer Eat Pumpkins?

Yes, deer eat pumpkins. They gnaw it to the rind like a dog does to a bone. They are attracted to the smell of it and will spy around your property if you place an opened pumpkin around.

Deer love eating the following parts of the pumpkin:

(1) Leaves: During the summer season, deer love to chew on the edible leaves of pumpkins. It is the heyday of pumpkin plants and can smell its newly sprouted leaves from afar. 

(2) Flowers: The flowers usually bloom in the last weeks. They are delicious and edible to both humans and mammals. So, when you fail to pick them up, the deer will eat them up and come back for the fruit in the fall. 

(3) Pumpkin fruit: Deer love to eat the flesh and the juicy center part of pumpkins. Once they see or smell an open pumpkin, they will be a frequent sight around your property, especially if you live near the forest or the mountains. 

Due to hunger and lack of food during winter, some deer may also try to bite and cut a pumpkin open. You may notice some unopened pumpkins with bite marks on their skin. Aside from pumpkin leftovers, another sign that deer are eating the pumpkins around your yard is poop trails.

How To Feed The Deer With Pumpkin Fruits?

If you have leftover pumpkins during Halloween or have an oversupply of pumpkins, you can use them to feed the hungry deer in your area rather than let them rot in the trash bins. Though deer have sharp teeth, the pumpkins should be cracked open to invite them around. Here’s how:

  1. Cut the pumpkins in half to expose their guts, which the deer love to eat. 
  2. Place the pumpkins near the forest or in areas where they will not be frightened to pick up the pumpkins. 
  3. Check daily if there are bite marks. If there are no signs of deer bites, you should move the pumpkins further into the forest.  
  4. When the winter comes, food in the wild becomes scarce. So, they will feed on unopened pumpkins even if their outer layer is tough.

Benefits of Feeding Deer with Pumpkins

The simple gesture of feeding deer with pumpkins can have a huge impact on wildlife and the environment. Here are the beneficial effects of feeding the deer with your leftover pumpkins:

(1) Improve the survival of deer: During winter 60% to 70% of young and malnourished animals die of winter starvation. Juveniles or young and old deer are more susceptible to winter starvation because they have smaller fat reserves and high demand for nutritional requirements. 

They will need enough food to gain more fat and nutrients and survive the extreme cold during winter. Pumpkins are rich in nutrients that will keep the deer healthy before the weather tests their limits. These nutrients include: Vitamins A, B, C, and E; Fiber, Copper, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Potassium, and Phosphorus.

(2) Food waste reduction: According to One Green Planet, there are around 18,000 tons of pumpkins that go to waste during Halloween. By using your leftover pumpkins to feed the deer, you become a catalyst for reducing food waste. You may not feel the gravity of your small gesture but you can inspire others to do the same.

(3) Maintain a healthy ecosystem in your area: By protecting the survival of the deer population in your area, you are also indirectly maintaining the health of the ecosystem. Deer are herbivores that make their poop rich in nutrients that are good for the soil. Consequently, nutrient-rich soil will produce vigorous and healthy plants and trees.

Pro tip: Moldy pumpkins should not be fed to deer. It can make them sick than nourish them for winter. It’s better to add it to your compost bin to serve as plant food.

Other Animals That Love To Eat Pumpkins

If the deer are not around, you can still feed the leftover pumpkins to other wild animals. Other than deer, the following animals love the smell and taste of the orange flesh of pumpkins:

  • Chickens
  • Ducks
  • Squirrels
  • Porcupines
  • Raccoons
  • Opossums
  • Chipmunks
  • Groundhogs

Some of these wild animals can stay in your house during winter. So, make sure that you place the pumpkins away from your house to keep them from coming back for more. You don’t want to have raccoons with pungent farts around, do you?

Grower’s Concern: Are Your Pumpkins Safe When Deer Are Around?

No pumpkin grower will bat an eye if you feed Halloween pumpkins to deer. However, when their cultivated pumpkins are at stake, they consider deer as pests. 

Deer, in particular, can eat even the smallest seedling you have in your garden. So, here are some steps to keep the hungry deer away from your pumpkin plants and fruits:

Physical Pest Control

Probably the best way to keep the deer from chomping off your prized pumpkin fruits and plants is to cover them or surround them with materials that will drive the deer out of your garden.

Sheets of Cloth

Pumpkin fruit hidden from deer
Pumpkin fruit is hidden from deer

A clean sheet of cloth can serve as an invisible cloak for pumpkin fruits. If the deer can’t see the bright orange or yellow-rounded fruits, they can’t find them. It’s a simple trick that pumpkin growers do to make the fruits of their labor stay hidden until the harvest day.

Soap 

Irish Spring soap as a deer repellent
Irish Spring soap as a deer repellent

Due to the strong sense of smell of deer, you can use it to your advantage in keeping them away from your pumpkin plants. Hang bar soap along the perimeter of your pumpkin patch or place bar soap shavings in a bag and place it around your garden.

The best bar soap option is Irish Spring which has a strong scent. Not only does it drive away deer, but also rats and sweat bees.

Here’s an experiment video that will debunk the myths about using an Irish Spring to deter pests:

Hair

Wild deer will flee at the sight or smell of humans. According to the University of Vermont, placing human hair in nylon bags or cheesecloths can be an effective deer alert system.

However, they lose their distinct smell after a month or a couple of weeks. So, it needs to be replaced every month until the harvest season comes.

Deer Repellents

If you want a quick fix to your deer problem, there are a lot of deer repellents available on the market like Bobbex Concentrate Deer Repellent.

Commercial deer repellent
Commercial deer repellent

In choosing a deer repellent, look for options that are safe to use on your pumpkin plants. The last thing you want to do is put so many chemicals on your plants that the fruit becomes dangerous to eat. 

Strategic Fencing

Visibility is one of the core factors for deer to attack your pumpkin plants and fruits. However, no matter how sneaky and smart they can get, they cannot outsmart a green thumb protecting their plants.

Here are some of the fencing techniques that will discourage the deer from treating your garden as a buffet:

Stockade fencing

Stockade fencing

Deer may smell your pumpkin plants but they will not be able to get to them because of a stockade fence. They can jump over a line fence but a stockade may intimidate them to jump. They hate being trapped and a stockade fence gives off that vibe.

Black mesh netting

Black mesh fencing

Another way to keep your pumpkins invisible to the deer and other wildlife is to cover the perimeter with a black mesh. It has a breathable fabric that will still maintain the airflow in your garden while blocking the spectating deer around the area. 

Rock formations

Deer dislike walking on rocks. They prefer walking on flat surfaces where they can stand and run on a stable course. With boulders and rocks around your garden, they will only check but will not attempt to jump because of the rocks.

Homemade Deer Repellents

If you don’t want to spend a dime on repelling deer on your property, the best and easiest option is to make your deer repellent. Here’s how:

Materials:

  • 4 to 5 Habanero or Scotch bonnet peppers
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup of water
  • 3 tbsp. Milk
  • Cheesecloth
  • Food processor
  • Spray bottle
  • Strainer

Directions:

  1. Place the peppers and water in the food processor and blend it until the mixture becomes red liquid. 
  2. Strain the mixture and mix the pepper solution with milk and oil. The milk will serve as the binder of the solution to allow the solution to stick to plants. 
  3. Transfer the mixture to the spray bottle and apply it to the pumpkin leaves. Make sure that your pets and kids are not around when you spray on your plants. Otherwise, they might lick or play with the leaves out of curiosity.

Warning: The solution is very hot. Kindly avoid rubbing your eyes during the process. It will also help if you will wear gloves and eye protection. The spiciness of the peppers can linger on your skin for hours.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What animals eat pumpkins?

Aside from deer, almost all animals love to eat pumpkins for several reasons. Pumpkins do not have any trace of toxic materials that can harm animals. Its harvest season also occurs in fall when most natural resources are scarce, especially for wild animals. 

Common animals that you will see chomping down pumpkins are birds, chickens, ducks, squirrels, porcupines, raccoons, chipmunks, opossums, and groundhogs.

Do deer eat pumpkin plants?

Yes, deer eat the aromatic and delicious leaves and flowers of pumpkins. Since they are edible and sprouted during summer, pumpkin plants may attract roaming deer around.

If you are growing some pumpkins in an open field, you should use some deer repellents to secure your fall harvests. Otherwise, your seedlings will not survive the hungry wild deer.

How do I keep deer from eating my pumpkins?

Feeding leftover pumpkin to deer is one thing but protecting them against these hungry mammals is another matter. Here are some of the methods that pumpkin growers use to protect their pumpkin fruits against deer:

  • Cover the pumpkins with a sheet of cloth 
  • Hang the pumpkin over a fence
  • Hang human hair around the pumpkin plants
  • Place pieces of soap around the pumpkin patch
  • Put in some wooden stakes to serve as a fort around the pumpkin fruits

What is a deer's favorite food?

Deer have almost the same diet as squirrels. They love to eat nuts like acorns, pecans, and hickory nuts. When there are no nuts around, they eat grass and fungi. They also love eating fruits like apples, blackberries, and dogwood fruit. In some cases, they also feed on clover leaves.

Do deer like pumpkin vines?

Deer can’t handle the tough and thick texture of the vines, So they won’t eat and instead prefer eating the leaves, flowers, and the fruit of pumpkins. If your pumpkin vines are mangled, it is surely not the deer’ fault.

What plants do whitetail deer eat?

Whitetail deer are more selective about what they eat than other types of deer. They only consume native plants and fruits available in the wild. The plants that they prefer are:

  • Wild plum
  • Dogwood
  • Smooth sumac
  • Prickly ash
  • Ragweed
  • Pokeweed
  • Asters
  • Wild lettuce
  • Wheat
  • Wild strawberry
  • Ryegrass
  • Oats
  • Lichens
  • Mushroom

Final Thoughts

So, do deer eat pumpkin? Definitely yes! We hope that this post encouraged you to keep your Halloween leftovers and reserve them for feeding the hungry wild deer around your area.

Your simple acts of kindness toward these elusive mammals can do wonders for the future generations of deer and the reduction of food waste in the world. 

If you find this post helpful, please don’t forget to share it with your friends, and spread the word about reducing food waste. The food that you throw in the trash is a fest to hungry wild animals. Take care of one deer at a time and your small act might spark inspiration for others to do the same.

About Jeanne Keith F.

Jeanne Felipe is a content creator of anything that can make this world a better place. She is a self-improvement junkie and a nature lover at heart. She loves to help people through her writing, either finding the right tools or doing the right thing to accomplish their goals. Quotes, sprouting plants, and cute dogs make her feel ecstatic. In her free time, she loves tending her garden and cooking Chinese and Mexican dishes. Connect her on Linkedin.

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