Deer are herbivores, which means they feed on vegetation. From fruits and vegetables to leaves and twigs – all of these can be a part of a deer’s diet. Deer will also eat plenty of nuts, like hazelnuts, pecans, and other such nuts. They also eat the twigs and leaves from the trees of these nuts.
But what about walnuts? As humans, we know that walnut is a tough nut to crack – literally. Do deer enjoy eating walnuts the same way they enjoy eating others?
Do Deer Eat Walnuts?
Deer do not eat walnuts the same way they eat other types of nuts. We know that walnuts have a very hard shell and aren’t easy to crack through, which makes it difficult for deer to eat them.
However, deer don’t go looking for walnuts to eat either. Since there are plenty of other options to choose from, deer will prefer a different menu. Whether that’s leaves, catkins, bananas, green beans, pumpkins, cabbages, or other types of nuts like a peanut, deer will usually pick something else rather than walnuts.
Deer will only opt for walnuts if they are very hungry and have nothing else to eat. This will prove to be difficult for them, though, since walnuts have very hard shells. Sometimes, you may find deer eating the leaves or twigs of walnut trees during colder months, but this is also rare.
Sometimes, deer can eat walnut seedlings and sprouts when the plant is still very young. In most cases, though, they will leave it alone until the tree becomes woody.
Read Also: Do Deer Eat Pumpkins?
All parts of the walnut tree secrete a chemical known as juglone. This comes from the leaflets, the roots, and the buds as well. Juglone is a chemical that prevents other plants from a gaseous exchange – that is, exchanging the carbon dioxide in the air for oxygen. This results in their growth being inhibited and is why you are very less likely to find anything growing around a walnut tree.
Juglone is also present in the fruit and husk of the walnut.
Because of juglone production, you will not see other types of vegetation growing around walnut trees. This means that deer have very few options if they are around. While most deer will go find something else like tasty peanuts, even if they have to travel farther away, some will consider eating walnuts if they can manage to crack through the shell. Others will opt for other parts of the walnut plant.
Read Also: Do Deer Eat Cabbages?
Walnut is not a desirable food for deer, so farmers sometimes use walnut trees to deter deer away from their farms. This may be counterproductive, however, since it can prevent your crops from growing too.
Nutritional Value of Walnuts
The main reason deer don’t eat walnuts is that of their extremely hard shells. However, walnuts do have plenty of nutritional value. For one thing, they have fewer carbs and are mostly 65% fat. They contain plenty of protein as well and have several important vitamins needed for muscle mass.
Walnut leaves will contain juglone, though, which can be toxic for some animals.
Do Deer Avoid Walnuts?
Again, because walnuts release juglone, they hinder the growth of any plants around them. This means that any food deer would have had in the area doesn’t grow due to the presence of walnut trees.
As such, deer are likely to stay away from the area, if only because they cannot find the food they need.
Walnut shells also give off a pungent smell which many deer do not like, and may avoid. However, deer do not avoid walnut trees in themselves. While they do not like the smell and would prefer being in an area with food, they do not mind walnuts.
As mentioned earlier, they will also eat walnuts and parts of the plant in situations where other types of food are not available.
While deer are likely not a threat to your walnut trees by making walnuts their meals, there are other ways deer can harm your walnut tree.
Deer will usually rub their bucks and antlers against the bark of different trees – and this includes walnut trees. When they do this, the bark gets damaged. Repeated behavior would result in the antlers damaging the tree inside the trunk. This is where the trees’ transport systems are, which carry water and nutrients from the roots to all other parts.
Damage to this part can interrupt the movement, and in some cases, kill the tree as well.
As such, even though walnut trees are used to deter deer in some cases, deer can kill these trees.
So, while deer will likely not eat walnuts unless they are left with no other choice, there are ways they can damage walnut trees otherwise. It is advised to keep a fence around your walnut trees if you are trying to prevent deer damage.
It is also advised to give deer food other than walnuts to keep them healthy.