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Oranges and tangerines: Do deer eat them?

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Oranges and tangerines are delicious for us humans, but what do deer species think about them?

First of all, deer do eat citrus fruits. Lemons, mandarines, oranges - all part of deer diet sometimes.

deer eating oranges and mandarines

Do deer like eating orange and tangerine fruits?

Well, they're hardly top favorites, to be honest, but deer definitely know they're edible and keep them 'lined up' for later. When all the berries, pears, plums, peaches, carrots, apples and bananas run out - it's time for things like pumpkin or citrus fruits and trees! We never see any feijoas sitting on the ground where deer are, but we do witness oranges scattered around with deer stepping over them.  But for hungry feral deer with limited food sources in winter times, citrus fruits should definitely be appreciated.

What are nutritional benefits of oranges and tangerines for deer?

  • Deers' immune system benefits from significan vitamin C content in these fruits as well as iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and protein.
  • Deer have adapted to consume high amounts of fibre (e.g. grass), and even though it takes longer to digest and extract nutrients from - this is their normal diet. Oranges especially (but also tangerines) contain a lot of that - fiber.
  • The natural sugars (glucose, fructose, and sucrose) provide a lot of energy to these animals which is a good thing occasionally.

Can oranges be dangerous for deer to eat?

Yes and no. Yes - if they come across and consume a large amount of these fruits, without being accustomed to them. Deers' digestive system is sensitive and needs time to adjust to new types of foods. Oranges, however, can be an excellent treat and supplement when consumed in moderation.

Will deer eat orange tree leaves?

Citrus trees overall, being aromatic plants, are not deers' favorite delicacy, but they will eat them once they've ran out of better options. So if you have citrus trees in your backyard, don't be surprised if deer will come and help themselves to the ripe fruit or young shoots now and again. As with any other trees, deer can damage them even without eating, by rubbing their antlers on the bark of the trunk. Please check out our advice on how deer damage trees and how to protect them. We grow orange, mandarine and lemon trees where deer have access, and while we don't worry about the lower branches, we do wrap a steel mesh around their trunks.

Can deer have orange rinds and mandarine peels?

Yes, deer can eat the entirety of citrus fruits, including rinds, bones. In fact, the peels contain a lot of healthy nutrients and fiber.

Some of the key nutrients found in these citrus peels include:

  1. Fiber: Orange rinds and mandarin peels are rich in dietary fiber, which can help promote digestion and regulate blood sugar levels.
  2. Vitamin C: Citrus peels are a great source of vitamin C, which is an essential nutrient that helps support a healthy immune system, skin, and connective tissues.
  3. Flavonoids: Orange rinds and mandarin peels contain flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants that can help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.
  4. Limonene: These citrus peels also contain limonene, a compound that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
  5. Calcium and Potassium: Orange rinds and mandarin peels are also good sources of calcium and potassium, two minerals that are important for bone health, muscle function, and regulating blood pressure.

Should I feed deer oranges?

If you're thinking about feeding oranges to deer, there are a few things to consider. First, make sure it's okay to feed deer where you live. Some states don't allow it because it could cause overpopulation and be risky for humans.

Assuming it's okay to feed them, wash the oranges really well to get rid of any yucky chemicals. Start by giving them small amounts of oranges and maybe mix them in with other fruits and veggies like pumpkin, bananas, carrot, celery, lemons, plums, or pears.

Remember that feeding deer oranges (or anything else) could change their eating habits and how they behave.

For more tips on feeding deer or other wildlife, check out our general post on feeding deer.

What animals will eat oranges

There are several other animals that enjoy eating oranges, including woodpeckers, mockingbirds, and catbirds. In addition to these birds, land animals such as squirrels, rats, and raccoons are also known to eat oranges when they are in season. So it pays to be cautious when leaving oranges out, as they may attract unwanted attention from vermin. If you plan to leave oranges out for deer or other wildlife to eat, it's best to place them at the far edge of your garden, away from your home, to avoid attracting pests.


In brief, yes deer can eat oranges (or tangerines), but should only be fed small amounts at a time, especially at the start. It takes about 3-4 weeks for these animals to attune their digestive tract to consuming new types of foods in large amounts. However, citruses in general are not deers' dream treat when compared to some other fruits and berries.

Wondering what other food deer might like to eat?

Read our overview post 'What do deer eat'.

Do you still have questions regarding 🍊 feeding deer citrus fruits? Feel free to ask in the comments below ad we'll do our best to answer.

Last modified 2023-02-24 at 16:21

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