Black-tailed Deer
Feeding Signs


Deer feed on a variety of plants. Their diet changes with the seasonal availability of certain foods. Some foods, such as the leaves and bark of evergreen species, are available year-round. Other foods, such as berries and acorns, are seasonal. Due to the high nutritional value of nuts and acorns, deer may feed almost exclusively on those during the times when they are available. The photos on this page show some of the common feeding signs left behind by deer.

Blacktailed deer feeding sign on twig. Photo
                      copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Deer lack the top incisor teeth that other animals have. Thus, they make rough cuts when they eat stems such as this one. Rabbits have sharp upper and lower teeth and can clip off the twigs cleanly. When you see rough edges like this, and find them at a height a deer could reach, you are looking at deer sign.

Blacktailed deer feeding sign on willow leaf.
                      Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

This leaf has some interesting scars that tell which species was feeding on it. Notice the scars are in lines and end at the jagged tear. The deer gripped the leaf in its mouth and then bent its head upward, trying to tear off the leaf on the edges of its lower front teeth. These teeth scraped across the leaf surface, leaving the scars you see here. The tip of the leaf was torn off and eaten.
Blacktailed deer feeding sign on blackberry
                    leaf. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
Deer love to eat the new leaves of blackberry plants. When the leaves are young, the spines are soft and easy to eat. The older leaves are also eaten, but the large spines are avoided, as you can see in this photo.

Blacktailed deer feeding sign on willow leaf
                      and twig. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

A willow twig and leaf both showing signs of deer foraging. Deer have a preference for willows. Notice the leaf bud on the twin, indicating that a new leaf will soon grow here.

Blacktailed deer feeding sign on willow twig
                      and leaf. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

A deer browsed on this willow leaf and twig. Notice the rough cut of the twig and the torn leaf. Rabbits cut leaves cleanly with their sharp teeth.

Blacktailed deer feeding sign on willow leaf
                      and branch. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Another browsed willow. Deer feeding signs appear more messy than those of rabbits.
Blacktailed deer feeding sign on blackberry
                    vine. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
This blackberry branch had all its young, soft leaves browsed. Deer love the new leaves as they lack prickly spines found on older leaves.
Blacktailed deer feeding sign on blackberry.
                    Burdock on right. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera
These older blackberry leaves were eaten by a deer. The plant on the right is a burdock, whose seeds stick like Velcro to passing animals' fur and are thus transported to another growing location.


For more deer signs, see the:

Deer Rutting Signs page.

Main Deer Tracks and Signs page

Deer Scats page 1

Deer Scats Page 2

Deer Bucks Photos


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Copyright 1997, 2008, 2018. Text, photos, and drawings by Kim A. Cabrera

Updated: March 25, 2018.