What Deer Browse Actually Looks Like

Considering I’ve been talking about what happens when deer eat too much in an area, I should probably show what this deer browse actually looks like! On an individual plant level, it looks like something has cut a stem clean off, almost as if by pruning shears or a weed eater. A deer will often eat a flower or young shoot whole. They’ll also rip off whole leaves; they don’t usually take one bite out of a leaf and then leave it. The picture below is of an Ampelopsis arborea individual (a native grape often called Peppervine) on campus that was definitely chomped by a deer. On trees and tall shrubs, you can often see a line where deer have reached as high as they can to browse on new shoots.

Though it looks somewhat like Poison Ivy, this is actually Peppervine (Ampelopsis arborea), a native grape!

Though it looks somewhat like Poison Ivy, this is actually Peppervine (Ampelopsis arborea), a native grape! You can see where some of the vines have been bitten off.

Deer-resistant plants are also not usually as fool-proof as they seem. When there isn’t enough food available, deer have even been known to eat plants that are poisonous or very spiky, including American Holly (Ilex opaca). Young deer will also often try out plants to see which ones are edible. Through this, a deer can figure out that it does not like the taste of a deer-resistant plant, but the deer will have already eaten half of the plant in the process!

These pictures are of two of the plots in the College Woods that I’ve been working with. The first one is open to deer browse, and the other one is fenced. You can see the huge difference in the amount of plant growth between the two plots.

This is the northwest subplot of plot number 13. This unfenced plot is almost exactly in the middle of the College Woods.

This is the northwest subplot of plot number 13. This unfenced plot is almost exactly in the middle of the College Woods and has very few plants.

This is the northwest subplot of plot number 30, about a 5 minute walk from the previous picture.

This is the northwest subplot of plot number 30, about a 5 minute walk from the previous picture. You can see how many more plants can grow in a fenced area where deer can’t reach them.

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