Do Deer Eat Pumpkins? (And What You Can Do About It)

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Updated: January 24, 2023
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Did you find your pumpkins destroyed or crushed overnight? Do you suspect an animal has eaten them? You’re probably right! But what animal was it? A deer, maybe? Do deer eat pumpkins, or was it another wild animal? Let’s find out!

Do Deer Eat Pumpkins?

pile of gladiator pumpkins

Deer find it incredibly easy to digest pumpkins.

©JoannaTkaczuk/Shutterstock.com

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Deer love pumpkins! Besides immensely enjoying their taste, deer find it incredibly easy to digest pumpkins. So they’ll eat anything a pumpkin offers – the leaves, the seeds, the flesh, and the skin!

Moreover, they are very fond of pumpkin blossoms! Their scent drives them crazy, which is a huge problem because if they reach your garden and eat the flowers, there will probably be no pumpkins growing that season. However, if you manage to grow some pumpkins, deer will eat them too! They enjoy young pumpkins and shoots and won’t say no to ripe pumpkins!

Many homeowners notice deer ruining their pumpkins – this has become a major problem recently, as deer started coming to urban and suburban areas more often.

If you suspect that deer are eating your pumpkins, here are some tips on how to know for sure:

  1. Check for deer scat. Deer will often leave droppings near your pumpkins — they poop in the form of small, round or oval pellets of dark brown or black colors. You’ll find them in piles near your pumpkins or the surroundings.
  2. Check for deer footprints. If there aren’t any droppings, this doesn’t mean deer weren’t in the area! Check the ground for footprints. You’ll easily distinguish deer hoof prints, as they have a unique shape. They leave prints with convex sides with front tips towards the track’s inside part. The footprints have an upside-down broken heart shape.
  3. Check your pumpkins. Did the mysterious eater eat whole pumpkins? Are the pumpkins crushed? Remember that deer can eat a whole pumpkin! They won’t leave anything behind if they’re hungry. Moreover, they’re much larger than other pumpkin-eating animals. Your pumpkins may be crushed if deer accidentally step on some. 

Is It Okay To Feed Pumpkin to Deer?

Deer are wild creatures, and wildlife organizations discourage people from feeding them.

©sandyman/Shutterstock.com

Deer love pumpkins, but you shouldn’t feed them. Deer are wild creatures, and wildlife organizations discourage people from feeding them. Unfortunately, this can greatly harm their population.

Yes, we know it’s difficult to resist feeding them due to their adorable appearance! Spotting a deer in or around your garden and seeing how hungry it is – it’s a clear invitation to give it some food!

However, even if you may help the animal for the moment, you will indirectly harm it. Why? Because the deer will keep coming back to your house. It will leave its natural habitat, become more accustomed to people and urban areas, and constantly return there. Other deer may follow it, and they’ll end up traveling in groups, whereas in the wild, they’re more scattered. What can this lead to? Here are some possibilities:

  1. Deer will be at a higher risk of being hit or even killed by cars, especially at night. Have you ever heard the expression deer in the headlights? Well, it comes from the fact that deer vision isn’t optimized for looking at headlights. They are crepuscular animals with night vision adapted for very low light, and their eyes are fully dilated at night. When a deer passes in front of a car, it freezes because the headlights temporarily blind it until the eyes get used to the light. This causes many accidents because drivers may not be fast enough to stop the car before hitting the deer.
  2. Diseases will spread faster among deer. If you feed a deer, it will most probably spread the word about it, and more deer will follow it to your house and other gardens. This way, if one deer gets sick, the disease will rapidly spread to the rest, thus harming their population.

These are only some of the reasons some deer species went extinct. Did you know some countries legally forbid people to feed deer?

How To Keep Deer Away From Pumpkins

The first thing you can do is build a fence around your pumpkin patch. You’ll need to use electrical wire because a standard chain-link fence won’t do any good. You can cover the pumpkin patch with a tree net if it’s too expensive to install a fence.

Besides this, you can plant deer-resistant plants, and there are numerous species you can choose from. Besides protecting your garden from deer and protecting its population, you’ll also decorate your garden and enjoy excellent fragrances!

Another method is using deer repellents. However, it won’t suffice, and you’ll need to combine the repellent with a fence or deer-resistant plant.

Other gardeners suggest that motion-activated sprinklers will help, too, because deer get startled by sudden movements or noises. However, as many sources suggest, deer don’t mind rain and water, so they can rapidly get accustomed to the sprinklers and even enjoy the water!

What Other Animals Eat Pumpkins?

Black-tailed Jackrabbit, Color Image, Horizontal, Infectious Disease, Infestation

Rabbits eat young pumpkin plant sprouts and young fruits.

©iStock.com/zhuclear

If you’re sure deer aren’t eating your pumpkins, check for signs from other animals, as plenty are fond of pumpkins! Rabbits, for instance, adore it! They’ll eat young pumpkin plant sprouts, as well as young fruits. However, if they were to choose between lettuce or pumpkins, they’ll go for the former.

Mice can also eat pumpkins and pumpkin plants. Moles, chipmunks, and squirrels will delight in them, too! Another major pumpkin eater is the woodchuck. While the others are somewhat easy to control, woodchucks aren’t as easy to chase away. You’ll need to trap them and call a local wildlife organization to relocate the animals. As for mice and moles, you can get a cat to keep them away. Squirrels and chipmunks will stay away from your garden if you apply pepper spray on the pumpkin’s surface.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © AN NGUYEN/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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Sources
  1. Garden Guides, Available here: https://www.gardenguides.com/104471-protect-grapevines-deer.html
  2. Seeds & Grain, Available here: https://seedsandgrain.com/do-deer-eat-pumpkins/