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Finding fruits that deer don’t want to eat can be quite a challenge, as these beautiful garden visitors seem to have very varied tastes! But do deer eat oranges, or is your citrus crop safe from deer?

Do Deer Eat Oranges?

Orange tree full of ripe fruit. Do deer eat orange trees or orange fruit?
A beautiful orange tree full of ripe fruit! Do deer eat these juice fruits, or do they leave them alone?

Deer are very unusual animals, as they often eat plants and fruits that other herbivores will not touch. So while your orange trees and fruits might be safe from most animals, deer can cause considerable damage to this precious crop.

Oranges grow on evergreen trees, Citrus x sinensis, that can reach heights of up to 30 feet tall. They thrive in warm, sub-tropical climates and have poor tolerance to frost. Potted orange trees can be overwintered indoors or in a glasshouse.

The interesting thing about oranges is that their fruits ripen during the cold winter months when other food sources are scarce. This provides us with nutritious, delicious fruits at a time when summer fruits seem like a distant memory.

Do Whitetail Deer Eat Oranges?

Whitetail deer can jump amazingly high! Find out how high your fences should be to keep your gardens safe from deer.
Whitetail deer can jump amazingly high! Find out how high your fences should be to keep your gardens safe from deer.

Most deer, including whitetail deer, will eat ripe oranges that fall from trees. These evergreen trees provide a handy place to shelter and a good food source through the winter months.

Luckily, a mature orange tree will generally provide abundant fruits, enough to provide a crop for your family and friends, leaving a few behind for any visiting deer. But if you’ve got a young or poor cropping orange tree, it might be a good idea to fence it off to keep hungry deer at bay.

Do Deer Eat Oranges Whole?

It is thought that deer like to eat oranges due to the sweet flavor and high moisture content of the fleshy interior. However, they will eat the whole orange, including the outer peel.

All parts of the orange are easy for deer to digest and can be eaten as part of a varied diet.

Deer should eat a diet that consists of around 80% browse and forbs – the leaves and twigs of woody plants, as well as weeds and grasses. The remaining 20% of a deer’s diet comprises fruit, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, and lichens.

Oranges fall into the second category, and should not make up most of a deer’s daily food intake.

Can I Feed Oranges to Deer?

If you’ve got a surplus crop of oranges, you might be tempted to leave the excess out for deer. But is this a good idea?

The main thing to remember is that many experts advise against feeding wild deer populations. In fact, it is against the law to feed deer in some regions. This is due to concerns about rapidly increasing deer populations and the risk to human safety.

If it is legal and safe to feed deer in your area, then by all means, leave a few oranges out for them. However, oranges should not comprise the bulk of a deer’s diet, as they are not a nutritious snack. Make sure that a wide range of plants, twigs, nuts, and seeds are available for deer to eat, as well as oranges.

Do Deer Damage or Eat Orange Trees?

Protect young fruit trees with deer netting
Netting can help protect your young fruit trees from deer and wildlife damage

In some situations, deer may eat or damage orange trees in other ways.

Mature orange trees are not particularly appetizing to deer, but young, green shoots can provide a tasty snack. As any new growth will provide fruit the following year, a hungry deer can significantly reduce the overall crop of fruit from your orange tree.

Luckily orange trees tend to grow to a good height, so most of the young fruiting branches will be out of reach of deer. Smaller saplings may need to be protected from deer, as they can cause irreversible damage.

Deer may also inadvertently damage young orange trees by snapping delicate branches as they pass or rub on them. Once your orange trees are around half their mature height, they should be sturdy enough to withstand the attention of your local deer population.

Deer Resistant Orange Trees

Unfortunately, no specific varieties of orange trees are known to be more deer resistant. But by carefully choosing some specific varieties, you can grow fruit that deer are less likely to enjoy eating.

Most modern-day hybrid orange trees have been developed to be spine-free, but some varieties still available have the thorny, sharp spines found on native trees. These can be a great deer deterrent but can also make pruning and harvesting your tree a spiky business!

Mandarin orange trees can be a good choice, as these are more likely to retain their sharp spikes than hybrid trees.

How to Keep Deer From Eating Oranges

Young orange trees will need protection from deer, as they will browse on the delicate tender shoots. You have two options here – either protect each tree or fence off the area where young trees are growing.

Protect young orange trees using a deer mesh fence that encircles the tree. Anchor it to the ground and ensure it is at least six feet tall.

To fence off your yard or orchard, you can use electric or any conventional fencing, as long as it is eight feet tall.

These measures are only necessary until your young orange trees become well-established. Once they are at the point that a deer cannot snap the main branch, they should survive the occasional nibble by passing deer.

When it comes to harvest time, you’ll find that deer will eat any oranges that drop onto the floor and pull ripe fruits from the tree. It is tempting to pick the oranges before they are ripe to stop deer from eating them. Unfortunately, orange fruits only ripen on the tree, so this plan will be unsuccessful.

The easiest way to maximize your orange crop is to temporarily fence off your tree with electric or wire mesh fencing during winter. Once you’ve got as many oranges as you need, remove the fencing to allow your beautiful garden visitors to enjoy the rest.

Will Orange Peels Keep Deer Away?

Many gardeners leave out peels of citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons in the belief that they will keep deer and other animals away. Sadly, although deer dislike strong smells, orange peels are not a good deer repellent.

In fact, the scent of orange peels could potentially draw deer into your garden as they go in search of some delicious citrus fruits to snack on!

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