Why Do Deer Dig Up Lawns?

Deer Can Dig?

Yes, deer can dig to some extent. Actually, they can dig more than you might expect for an ungulate, an animal with hooves. Deer may be the smallest members of the North American deer family, but they care adept at getting to want they want. White-tailed deer as well as mule deer and exotic deer can all use their hooves to excavate the earth. In some cases, the holes they make can become quite large.

Deer Attracted to Lawns

Deer are attracted to yards for a number of reasons. First, many residential yards are irrigated. This means lush vegetation is going to be found there. Before they even dig up your lawn, they are already attracted to it because it looks good.

Lawns are typically fertilized, as well. This means that the plants found growing in your yard will also taste good to a deer. Wild animals such as deer can taste increased nutritional content. It’s how they were built; deer are designed to seek out the most nutrient-rich foods.

Deer Dig Up Foods

Deer are herbivores that browse. They will eat weeds as well as the leaves and stems of trees and shrubs. White-tailed deer, in particular, consume very little grass. They spend most of their waking hours searching for something to eat.

Deer are different from grazing animals such as cows in that they need high quality foods, foods that are easily digested. Deer foods must be energy-rich. Grass is not easy to digest so it does not make up a large part of their diet. So when deer visit a yard they are not looking for grass. If that were the case some suburban areas with high deer numbers would have zero grass cover.

Deer will consume plant parts rich in energy that grow underground, such as bulbs, which is why deer are often digging up yards, irrigated lawns and flower beds. There is something good for them to eat down there! Deer have got to eat, right?

Prevent Deer Digging in Yards

If you see digging in your lawn the first thing to do is identify the animal doing the damage. There are a number of animals will dig in a yard, with the most obvious ones being armadillos and wild, feral hogs. Armadillos create a number of small digs, maybe 2-4 inches in diameter, throughout a yard. Feral hogs can make large holes approaching 1-3 feet or even more in diameter!

The most important part of preventing damage to you yard or residential lawn is to pay attention to why deer are there, digging in the first place? Food. Remove what they want. Look at what they are digging up. The best offense is a good defense. Do not replace dug up plants with the same species. Switch gears completely and go with plants that are not attractive to deer. If they are eating your bulbs then it’s time to plant something else.

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