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Can a Deer Eat Meat (and 9 Other Odd Things Deer Eat)

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You may not know this, but deer eat meat sometimes. They are generally herbivores, eating only grass, twigs, root vegetables, and flowers, but sometimes they mix things up and take advantage of an opportunity when food is scarce.

No, don’t fool yourself into thinking that deer are meat-seeking predators when they’re not out calming grazing in a field near your house. A Deer eating meat is rare, but it happens.

It’s a cold, hard fact that living in the wild is hard sometimes, especially if the temperature starts to drop outside. With snow on the ground, food for deer becomes scarce. Even in good times, deer can have difficulty getting all of the protein and other nutrients they need.

When you mix that desperation with food scarcity, deer aren’t going to turn their nose up at a fresh carcass just because they’d rather be eating rose petals.

Deer eat meat to stay alive. If you’re shocked to read that deer eat meat, here are 9 other strange foods deer eat as well.

an adult male deer on an autumn backdrop

How Deer Eat Meat

Deer aren’t predatory animals. With one look, you can tell that they aren’t built for hunting, and only in the most extreme circumstances could they kill something. With larger animals, deer have almost no chance of killing them.

Even if they come across a large animal that recently died, their teeth aren’t sharp enough to cut through the hide. As a result, when deer eat meat, it’s usually only small animals that recently passed away. Think squirrels, mice, rabbits, etc.

Deer eat these animals because they offer nutrient-rich calories that would take them much longer to consume by eating their normal food in the wild. They usually go for the vitamins and minerals in their organs. They have a keen sense of smell, so will know when a dead animal is nearby.

When dead animals die, their bodies and organs swell and eventually decompose into what is called “gut piles”. Deer will eat these gut piles because this meat is easier to digest.

Deer have also been known to eat birds, whether dead or alive. If the bird is small enough and tries to get too close to a deer, it may end up in its mouth.

9 Strange Foods That Deer Eat

Here’s a list of 9 foods you probably never thought deer would eat.


eggs in a basket on top of a dried grass

Deer love to eat eggs if they ever come across them. They’ll take down quail eggs and even go into duck and geese nests if they get the chance.

Deer are tall animals, so they may even get up on their hind legs to read a bird’s nest if they spot one, but usually, birds that nest in trees will put them too high up.


Some hunters report that deer go wild for vanilla. They use real vanilla or vanilla flavoring on clothing or sprinkle a bit on their bait to draw deer in.

The scent of vanilla is certainly strong, so deer will come from near and far to check out what smells so good. They’ll walk right up to the source and take a nibble to see whether it’s worth eating completely.

Wild Mushrooms

closeup of wild mushrooms

If you take a walk through the woods, you’ll probably notice a lot of wild mushrooms growing underneath trees or fallen branches.

Mushrooms are a very good source of nutrients for deer, who can have a hard time finding food with the vitamins they need to keep their gut biome working well.

Banana Peels

Banana peels are another strange food that deer love to eat. It’s something every human either tosses in the trash or throws in the compost heap.

Deer love to raid composts, so gardeners and farmers have to go to great lengths to fence them off and find other ways to protect their compost.

Deer, with their tough stomachs, have no trouble digesting tough banana peels, and the lack of sugar in their normal diet makes even a banana peel feel like a treat.


It’s probably not a surprise to hear that deer love to eat corn, but they also go crazy for popcorn!

If you live somewhere with a lot of deer, there’s no chance your popcorn will still be there in the morning if you leave it out in the yard overnight.

They can smell it from a mile away and love the salty flavor.

Poison Ivy

poison ivy growing

When you’re out in the woods, you’re always on the lookout for poison ivy. The stuff’s not going to kill you, but it can make life miserable for a while depending on where it gets on your body.

Deer, on the other hand, don’t mind a poison ivy snack at all. It doesn’t bother them.

Their stomachs are like iron, and the irritant in the plant doesn’t affect them. They’ll gobble up poison ivy as they graze their way through a field or around trees.


Pumpkins are a hearty meal for deer. It’s something you may not have guessed you’d ever see deer eat, but they’ll go for them if they see them.

Generally, an adult deer will stand over the pumpkin and smash it with a hoof trying to break it open to get to the guts. It’s a great way to lead any of their young to a reliable meal.


fresh potatoes

We’ve all seen deer grazing in fields, but did you know that they can dig for their food as well?

Potato farmers have to deal with deer digging for and stealing their crops all of the time. They can dig fairly deep with their hooves and are extremely persistent animals as long as there are no threats around.

In addition to potatoes, deer will dig for things like carrots, turnips, and other root vegetables.

Anything You Don’t Want

Do you ever eat anything strange? Probably. People have different tastes, and the grocery store is always full of new things to try.

Deer will eat anything you don’t want, whether it’s stale donuts or leftover spaghetti from last week. Leave it out and it will be gone. Human food is full of salt and sugar that deer rarely get to eat, so when it’s there they jump at the chance to have a treat.

Final Words

These are just some of the strange foods that deer love to eat.

Even though they look nice and are graceful animals, they are considered pests in a lot of places because they will eat anything in their path.


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