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If you’re considering planting some nut trees as part of a food forest or woodland, then it pays to consider what wildlife may be tempted to eat your young saplings. But do deer eat pecans, or are pecans deer resistant? And what about when it comes to harvest time – are deer going to eat your precious crop of pecan nuts? 

Planting any type of tree is a big investment, in terms of both time and money. To save your efforts from going to waste, we’ve taken an in-depth look into whether deer eat pecans to answer all your questions! 

Do Deer Eat Pecans?

Young pecan saplings are frequently damaged by deer, normally due to bucks rubbing the trunks with their antlers. This damages the bark and can cause a younger tree to die.

Deer do not tend to eat the leaves and twigs of mature pecan trees, but they will eat the nuts during the winter months when other food sources are scarce. 

How Do You Grow Pecans?

Pecan nuts grow on large deciduous trees which can grow up to 130 feet in height. These impressive trees are a member of the walnut tree family, and have a beautiful wide-sweeping branched growth system, spreading to 75 feet wide or more. The tips of the lowest branches often dip almost to the ground, creating a lovely shaded canopy. 

Because of their potential size, pecans tend to only be grown in larger gardens or woodland. At least three different varieties of pecan trees are required for optimum pollination, making the demand for space even greater. 

Pecan trees are native to Mexico and the central and eastern regions of the US. They are normally grown for their edible nuts, and a mature healthy tree can produce a substantial crop. 

When grown from seed, pecan trees can take up to a decade to start producing any nuts. Faster results can be obtained by planting saplings, which may produce nuts within three years. 

Will Deer Eat Pecan Trees?

Do deer eat pecans or pecan trees?
Mature pecan tree – will deer eat your pecan trees?

As any forestry worker will tell you, deer love to nibble away at many different types of trees! This can be a big problem, particularly if you are trying to establish young saplings. 

But will deer eat pecan trees, or do they tend to leave them alone? 

Pecan trees are not a regular food source for deer. They may nibble at the leaves, particularly when the young buds are sweetest in the spring. However, the damage is normally fairly minimal and the deer will quickly move on to tastier foods. 

However, deer do tend to adapt their tastes according to the region that they live in and the availability of food. If wild food resources are scarce, you may find that the local deer population finds the leaves and buds of your pecan trees a more enticing prospect. 

The main problem associated with pecan trees and deer is bark damage. This occurs when bucks rub their antlers on the trunk of the tree to mark their territory. Younger pecan trees have soft bark and easily breakable trunks, and a large adult buck can cause often fatal damage. 

Do Deer Eat Pecans In the Shell?

Deer like to eat pecan nuts, but they are not keen on the green shell of freshly-harvested nuts. They tend to eat more pecan nuts in the winter when the shell has dried and cracked open, giving easier access to the nut inside. 

Some deer may have even learned how to break the shell of pecans to get to the delicious nut inside! 

To secure yourself a good crop of pecan nuts, it is advisable to pick and store the nuts as soon as they are ripe. If you leave them on the tree for too long, they will fall onto the ground and start to dry out. At this point, they become a quick and easy source of food for deer and other wildlife, and will disappear before you can blink! 

Are Pecans Good for Deer?

Pecan nuts are a valuable food source for deer. Particularly during the winter months when there aren’t as many foraging opportunities. Like most nuts, pecans contain high levels of protein and healthy fats, making them an energy-dense foodstuff. 

People often plant pecan trees in areas intended to be beneficial to wildlife, as they provide food not only for deer but also squirrels and turkeys. 

How to Keep Deer From Eating Pecan Trees

Deer are not particularly keen on eating pecan trees, although they may nibble at fresh leaf buds in the spring if food is scarce. However, male deer can cause substantial damage to young pecan trees when they rub their antlers on them. They do this to leave their scent on the tree, marking their territory. 

The best way to protect young pecan trees from deer is to use a deer guard. Commercially-produced deer guards are available, or you can opt for a cheaper homemade method instead. 

The aim is to create a protective barrier around the trunk of the young sapling. The barrier ensures that deer can’t get to your tree. You can protect smaller saplings with a piece of PVC piping, but larger trees may require something more substantial. 

A good option is to place fencing posts around the tree and attach wire mesh to them. This might seem like a lot of work, but it is a worthwhile investment to ensure the survival of your tree. 

Verdict: Are Pecan Trees Deer Resistant?

Pecans are not truly deer resistant, as young saplings are frequently damaged by these foraging herbivores. However, the damage tends to occur more from bucks rubbing their antlers on the bark rather than deer eating the leaves and twigs. 

If you can grow a pecan tree past the sapling stage, the mature tree is unlikely to suffer from much deer damage. To give your young pecan trees the best chance of survival it is worth putting the time and effort into protecting them with good-quality deer guards. 

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