Do Deer Eat Apples & Are These Fruits Good For Them?

A deer eating an apple

Many homeowners want to know if deer eat apples, because they want to either feed these animals or keep them away from their garden.

This guide covers if deer will eat apples and if these fruits are even good for them.

Do Deer Eat Apples?

Deer are creatures that roam the wilderness, enter suburbia, and grace homeowners with their period backyard presence. While notoriously skittish, observing these animals from afar can be a real treat.

When you spot a deer in your backyard or a nearby forest, it’s likely scavenging for food. Deer have a varied diet that changes depending on the time of the year. Usually, they prefer to eat green foliage, fruiting plants, and nuts.

But do deer eat apples?

Apples are a unique food item when it comes to deer. Deer can eat apples and won’t hesitate to chow down if they see some. However, it’s not the healthiest option in the world.

Think of apples to a deer as you think of candy for humans. Deer like to eat apples and it’s great in moderation, but it’s certainly not something that will support survival.

Apples are chock-full of many beneficial nutrients. For example, they contain magnesium, potassium, and Vitamin C. All those nutrients are crucial for good health.

However, apples don’t contain a ton of fiber or protein. Instead, they have a lot of sugar and water. Sugar isn’t inherently bad. Most deer don’t get much sugar in their diet unless they consume fruits like apples.

But as always, too much of a tasty thing can cause trouble. Apples are fine to eat periodically. However, they should not be a diet staple. Fortunately, most deer don’t come across them too often unless they live near an orchard or wild tree.

Do Deer Like Apples?

Deer like apples and will snack on them constantly if they’re lucky enough to find some. When you start thinking of apples as a dessert or candy treat, it’s not hard to see why! Everyone loves something they don’t get a ton of, and apples fit the bill for deer.

Plus, it’s super sweet and provides a new flavor profile that these creatures don’t experience too often.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a deer that will ignore apples they come across. It’s the same thing as other fruits and vegetables. These animals are omnivores, so they take what they can get.

Diet staples include nuts, leaves, grasses, and other foliage. Fruits are a rarity that deer will take advantage of when they see them.

But make no mistake, apples aren’t something deer will eat out of necessity. It’s not a food item they should have abundant access to, either.

Earlier, we mentioned that apples are a great source of vitamins and nutrients. However, the fruits don’t contain everything deer need to stay alive. These animals can eat hundreds of apples and still die of malnutrition. 

That sounds crazy, but let’s explain.

Deer need protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. Apples might have some essentials, but they’re predominantly moisture and sugar. They taste great, but the fruits provide very little nutritional value for these animals.

To make matters worse, the juicy fruits are most available at a time when deer are vulnerable to dietary issues.

A male deer eating a pile of apples

Most of the common wild and cultivated apple varieties you see today grow during the cooler months. Apple plants thrive in colder weather. So even as everything else dies off, apples can continue to grow and produce fruit.

But here’s the thing about winter: Deer don’t have much food to consume. Apples become a rare treat during a season of eating twigs, dry leaves, and other dead-looking roughage.

Since deer do eat apples, you might think that feeding them during the winter with this food would be helpful. But that’s not the case. During the winter, a deer’s digestive system adapts to the more sparse conditions. Specialized microorganisms in the animal’s gut flourish, making it easier for deer to digest woody food items.

While eating twigs and leaves seems like a nightmare to us, the deer’s system can handle it without any issues. Those microorganisms do their job to break down seemingly ineligible foods while helping the animal absorb as much fiber, protein, and other essential macronutrients as possible.

So what happens when apples get into the mix? Eating the occasional apple is fine, but if the deer tries to rely on the fruit to survive, it’ll experience a world of trouble.

The fruit’s high moisture content, low fiber, and abundant sugars throw the carefully balanced gut environment out of whack. The sugar-filled juice of apples can lead to fermentation, killing the healthy bacteria. The result is a nightmare scenario for the deer.

Without those microorganisms, it becomes challenging for the deer to digest their foods properly. Because apples don’t have what they need to survive, that imbalance could be lethal.

Of course, most deer don’t know that and will happily eat as many apples as they can. But encountering a huge supply could be problematic.

What Parts Of An Apple Do Deer Eat?

Deer have no problem eating every single part of the apple!

As humans, we often cut out certain bits and pieces. For example, most people discard or compost the core. We also don’t eat seeds or that rough stem.

But deer? They will eat it all!

None of those commonly discarded parts pose a problem. As you may or may not know, seeds do contain arsenic. But as long as the deer eats these fruits in moderation and not a ton at once, the arsenic-laden seeds pose no health risks.

Believe it or not, deer will also eat browned and partially rotten apples. It’s a pretty gross concept to us humans. However, deer aren’t repulsed by rot in the same way.

Remember: They have relatively tough digestive systems filled with microorganisms that can breathe down roughage. A bit of light fermentation and rotting fruit flesh is no issue.

In fact, deer eat rotted fruits more often than you might think. Apples grow on tall trees. While the weight of the fruit does cause them to hang low enough for some creatures to get, most deer will wait for the apple to fall off naturally.

They’re more inclined to extend their heads low to eat rotted fruits below than hard-to-reach fruits above. And even better if they can consume some of the leaves and twigs that fall with it!

Will Apples Attract Deer To Your Yard?

If you have apple trees on your property, they could attract deer your way. Whether that’s good or bad depends on your perspective!

The scent of an apple tree is enough to bring these animals into your yard. Some experts believe that even fruitless trees can draw them in. Some apple varieties can take up to eight years to bear fruit, but the plant’s smell alone could be enough to attract a deer’s attention.

Don’t be surprised if you catch them looking for deer to eat at night or in the early morning. This can be quite fun to watch, but keep in mind that these animals are omnivores.

If you have a garden nearby, it could end up as deer food! These animals will consume everything from ornamental grasses to winter squash. They might come for the apple smell and stick around for the abundance of food nearby.

There are ways to stop deer from eating your apples. Because they’re so skittish, it doesn’t take much. Motion-activated lights and sprinkler systems are more than enough to scare these animals away from your precious garden. If that doesn’t work, a modest barrier of fishing line around your trees will do the trick.

Types Of Apples That Deer Eat

As we mentioned earlier, deer will eat apples (and they’re not picky). If they eat rotting apples without a second thought, they won’t hesitate to eat any apple variety they find!

That includes the mild and sweet Gala apple, the tart Granny Smith, or the dense Fuji. No apple orchard is safe.

But deer will also eat the fruits humans don’t care about much. For example, these animals will consume wild apples, sour crab apples, and more. 

They’ll even consume hedge apples. However, those yellow-green fruits are more of a “desperate meal” than anything else. Deer will pass over those apples if other food is available. But if there’s nothing else, they’ll eat these apples if they’re hungry enough.

How To Feed Apples To Deer

Now that it’s clear that deer like apples and will eat them without any hesitation, should you offer them freely?

That’s a bit of a controversial question. Some people are adamant that you should feed apples to deer at all. 

Too many apples could cause harm, and that risk is even more significant during winter. The last thing you want is to harm these animals and put them in danger of nutritional deficiency. For that reason, some say feeding these creatures apples is a big no-no.

But realistically, it’s not a big deal in moderation. A deer eating a couple of apples won’t hurt unless you turn it into a regular thing.

Never dump a huge pile of apples in the forest for deer to consume en-masse. But a couple of rotted fruits you would otherwise throw out? That’s perfectly fine.

Place no more than a few apples in a spot far away from household noise and action. You can offer up the fruits whole. There’s no prep work necessary.

As long as you don’t turn these occasional feedings into a daily thing, the treat is nothing more than a tasty gift.


Deer eat apples and love these fruits, but it’s only good in moderation.

Fortunately, it’s not hard to have the correct approach when it comes to these animals. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to keep them away from your garden or feed them, your options are straightforward!

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