Do Deer Eat Cherries? The Complete Guide for Protecting Your Trees

Paul West/ Pet And Wildlife Care, Backyard Gardening

If you’re lucky enough to have a large backyard with orchards (including cherry trees), have you ever wondered, do deer eat cherries? As a beautiful fruit-bearing tree, cherry trees can attract wildlife like deer. But will deer actually eat cherries and cause damage to your trees? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about deer and cherries.

Deer are herbivorous animals that tend to eat a wide variety of plants, including leaves, twigs, bark, berries, nuts, fruit, fungi, and lichens. As browsers that prefer eating woody plants, shrubs, and trees, it’s common for deer to show interest in landscaping trees like cherry trees.

While deer have diverse diets, their interest in eating cherries depends on the type of cherry tree, availability of other food sources, season, and location. By understanding deer’s dietary habits and preferences, you can better protect your cherry trees and fruit.

Key Takeaways

  • Deer tend to avoid eating cherries and prefer other fruits like apples and pears.
  • Cherries contain cyanide compounds that can sicken deer if eaten in large amounts.
  • Deer are more likely to damage cherry trees by browsing leaves and bark.
  • Multiple deterrents like fencing, repellents, and scare tactics can protect trees.
  • Feeding deer is not recommended as it makes them bolder and less afraid of humans.

Do Deer Eat Cherries?

Deer may occasionally eat cherries, but they do not typically seek them out as a preferred food source. Wild cherries are more likely to be sampled by deer compared to cultivated cherry varieties. However, deer tend to browse and nibble on cherry tree leaves, twigs, and bark rather than directly consume cherries in significant quantities.

There are a few reasons why deer generally avoid eating large amounts of cherries:

  • Taste – The tart flavor of cherries is not as enticing to deer as other sweeter options. Deer have a sweet tooth and prefer grapes, apples, pears, and plums.
  • Cyanide – Cherries contain cyanogenic glycosides which release cyanide when ingested. While a couple cherries may be ok, eating large quantities can potentially cause cyanide poisoning in deer.

So in general, deer are not inclined to feast on your cherry crop. But that doesn’t mean they won’t damage cherry trees in other ways as they forage.

The Science Behind Deer’s Aversion to Cherries

To understand why deer tend to avoid cherries, it’s important to look at the chemistry. Cherries contain compounds called cyanogenic glycosides. These produce cyanide when eaten and metabolized.

Many fruit trees in the prunus genus contain cyanogenic glycosides, including cherries, apples, plums, peaches, and apricots. But wild cherries and bitter almonds have some of the highest concentrations.

While humans can safely eat small quantities of cherries, a large amount could potentially cause toxic cyanide poisoning. Deer likely instinctively avoid gorging on cherries to prevent getting sick.

So ultimately, the cyanide risk puts a limit on how many cherries deer will sample. They know not to overindulge.

Other Fruits in Deer’s Diet

Though wary of eating cherries in quantity, deer enjoy sampling various fruits, especially in the summer and fall. Their favorites include:

  • Apples – Deer relish the sweet taste of apples. Both wild and cultivated varieties get nibbled.
  • Pears – Similar to apples, juicy pears attract deer looking for a sugary snack.
  • Grapes – Grapes tend to be a highly preferred fruit treat for deer in the fall.
  • Plums – Plum trees often take a beating from browsing deer that eat the fruit, leaves, and twigs.
  • Berries – Deer dine on blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and other wild berries.

In general, sweeter fruits with less cyanide risk appeal more to a deer’s palate. Keep this in mind when assessing if your fruit trees may be vulnerable.

Implications of Feeding Deer

While you may feel inclined to offer deer a snack from your cherry tree, there are risks associated with feeding wild deer:

  • They may return looking for more handouts and pester you for food.
  • It can make them less afraid of humans and more likely to cause property damage.
  • Deer can spread diseases at concentrated feeding sites.
  • Your area may prohibit the feeding of wild deer.

For these reasons, wildlife experts advise against feeding deer. It’s best not to encourage deer to view your landscaping as a food source. Maintaining their natural fear of humans helps keep both deer and people safe.

Protecting Your Trees from Deer

Though they aren’t the most tempting fruit, cherry trees still need protection from deer. Here are some tips:

  • Wrap trees in plastic guards, fencing, or wire mesh to prevent browsing.
  • Use repellents made from putrescent egg solids that deter deer with the stench. Reapply often.
  • Hang bars of soap, hair clippings, or bags of human hair in trees to scare deer with human scent.
  • Play radios tuned to talk radio stations when deer are active to frighten them with human voices.
  • Allow your dog to patrol your yard and scare deer away from the trees.
  • Plant cherries near patios and human activity since deer avoid people

With persistent efforts, you can condition deer to avoid your orchard.

Final Thoughts

To sum up, deer tend to avoid eating large quantities of cherries. But that doesn’t prevent them from nibbling on or damaging your cherry trees. Using multiple deer deterrent strategies tailored to your specific environment gives your trees the best chance to grow and thrive. Stay vigilant, and don’t let Bambi eat your cherry crop!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do deer prefer wild cherries over cultivated ones?

Deer tend to prefer wild cherries over cultivated varieties. Wild cherries have a tart, bitter taste from higher levels of cyanogenic glycosides. This deters deer from eating too many. Cultivated cherries like Bing and Rainier are sweeter and more appealing to a deer’s palate. But deer will browse both wild and cultivated cherry trees for the leaves and twigs rather than gorging on the fruit. Ultimately, deer don’t rely heavily on cherries for sustenance. They will focus more on other food sources like acorns, mushrooms, and woody shrubs.

Is it safe for deer to consume cherries?

No, it is not completely safe for deer to eat cherries. All cherries contain cyanogenic glycosides which can release cyanide when ingested. Consuming 1 or 2 cherries is likely fine for a deer. But eating a large quantity of cherries could potentially cause cyanide poisoning. Deer tend to instinctively limit their cherry consumption to avoid getting sick. But if food is scarce, a starving deer may overindulge on cherries despite the risk. So it’s best not to intentionally feed deer cherries, as gorging could be dangerous.

What other fruits do deer commonly consume?

Deer enjoy eating a variety of sweet, juicy fruits in summer and fall. Their favorites besides cherries include apples, pears, plums, grapes, and berries like blueberries and blackberries. Deer also nibble on wild fruits like crab apples, chokeberries, and persimmons. Fruits provide deer with sugars and carbs to build fat for winter. And deer find fallen ripe fruits easily accessible from the ground. But deer focus more on woody browse like twigs and acorns overall rather than fruit.

How can I protect my cherry trees from deer?

You can protect cherry trees from deer damage with fencing, repellents, and deterrents. Try wrapping tree trunks in plastic guards or wire mesh. Apply smelly organic repellents frequently around trees. Hang bars of deodorant soap, human hair, or bags with human scent to scare deer away. Also use motion-activated sprinklers, noise makers, and flashing lights. Allowing dogs to patrol and mark territory near trees will discourage deer from approaching. persistence with multiple deterrents tailored to your environment will condition deer to avoid your orchard over time.

Do deer eat cherry blossoms?

Deer may nibble on cherry tree leaves and buds but are less likely to eat the blossoms. Flowering cherry trees like Yoshino or Kwanzan bloom for a short period in spring. Deer have abundant other food options like new shoots and greens at this time. While deer may sample cherry blossoms, they know not to strip trees completely bare. Allowing some leaves for photosynthesis ensures continued regrowth. So deer may prune branches and eat a few blossoms but won’t decimate the tree. Protect young saplings, and mature trees will rebound after restrained deer browsing.

Why is feeding deer not recommended?

Wildlife experts advise against feeding deer for several reasons. Deer may become dependent on handouts and pester you for food. They can transmit diseases when crowded around feeding sites. Concentrated feeding also damages native plant communities. Additionally, luring deer close to houses makes them less wary of humans and more likely to cause property damage. Habituated deer lose their natural fear and become more aggressive. Local laws may also prohibit feeding of wild deer. Letting deer forage naturally is best for both deer health and human safety.

Paul West
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About Paul West

Longstanding and passionate about really having family fun in the backyard. I'm no expert but I've picked up a thing or two along the way!