Deer are fascinating and beautiful animals, and people often wonder (especially during the winter): can deer eat popcorn?
Deer should not eat popcorn. Popcorn can cause health deterioration and digestive issues for deer. It can pack their stomachs full while preventing their bodies from absorbing any nutrition. There are other foods to use if you’re intent on feeding deer, but popcorn is not one of them.
Can Deer Eat Popped Popcorn?
While technically, deer can eat popped popcorn, it’s not recommended. This is for multiple reasons: their bodies are not built to eat carbohydrates such as popcorn. It may not be toxic but can cause many digestive issues, resulting in sickness and death.
Deer are herbivores, and they thrive while eating plants; popcorn is more harmful than beneficial for their simple digestive systems.
Also, deer need about 2-4 weeks to adjust to a new food before they naturally build up the proper microorganism balance to digest it. This means you shouldn’t feed anything to a deer that won’t continue to be a part of its normal diet.
Since popcorn isn’t something deer forage for in the wild, it shouldn’t be introduced into their diet in the first place.
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Can Deer Eat Popcorn Kernels?
Deer should not eat popcorn kernels. While this may seem a better option since they probably aren’t loaded with butter yet, the basic nutritional makeup makes popcorn a bad choice for deer, not just the toppings.
Popcorn kernels can remain unprocessed in a deer’s stomach for a long time since they cannot digest them. They can build up there, causing discomfort and malnutrition for the rest of a deer’s life.
Can Deer Eat Other Types of Corn?
The nutritional value of corn – in any form – does not match a deer’s ideal diet. They should not consume corn at all. These kernels have very little nutritional value no matter what form they take. Corn will cause digestive upset at the very least.
Besides corn’s weak nutritional profile?
It’s the opposite of what a deer needs in its overall diet. Their bodies rely heavily on nutrient-dense foods because they conserve energy and lower their food intake around late fall.
This allows them to rely on fat reserves throughout the winter when there’s less food available. Corn products do not have enough nutrients to store and build any fat reserves.
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Why Shouldn’t You Feed Popcorn to Deer?
Deer naturally eat a large variety of plants, and they focus on those that are easily digestible. These have a high amount of nutrients required for a deer to remain healthy. Consuming foods that don’t contain a high amount of nutrients shocks their system and can have catastrophic consequences.
Popcorn is void of the nutrients that deer need to survive. It’s entirely made of carbohydrates, which can fill a deer’s stomach without providing any nutrition, basically starving them. While empty calories might be fine for humans occasionally, they have no place in a deer’s diet.
Other digestive issues can result in death for deer when fed unsuitable foods such as popcorn (or any kind of corn). Deers’ digestive systems rely on carefully balancing microorganisms, enzymes, and pH to process their diet and store the proper nutrients during different seasons.
And when you throw popcorn into the mix?
Their bodies cannot digest these carbohydrates, which destroys the microorganism balance. Their system can become overloaded with acid (acidosis), which can cause lethargy, malnutrition, and even death.
Appropriate Foods for Deer
If you’re intent on feeding deer, stick to foods that are nutritionally sound for their bodies, such as oats, legumes, and food mixes made specifically for deer. The best option, though, is to focus on their natural food and vegetation.
The Safest Option: Vegetation
Deer naturally feed on twigs, buds, and leaves, especially during the winter. If you’re intent on feeding deer, this is a good place to start, as it won’t negatively affect their health. Building up a supply of these items in a woodlot or even a backyard near the woods will most likely attract deer.
The best way to feed deer their natural vegetation?
Cut down a few trees. Or at least cut down some branches of trees that contain leaves and buds. Since they can’t reach high into trees, this brings their preferred food source down to their level, making it more accessible.
Other Safe Food Options
Another safe food option is acorns; they eat a lot of these in the wild and can digest them naturally, so you don’t have to worry about a lack of nutrition like corn.
Deer also eat some fruits and vegetables in nature, and their systems can handle some of this. Examples include carrots, pears, apples, cherries, snap peas, and grapes.
So, to recap: deer should not eat popcorn. Even a little bit can mess with their natural digestive balance.
While it may seem helpful to toss a few kernels of popcorn to hungry deer in the winter, it does more harm than good. If you’d like to help, focus on providing more of their natural winter diet. Human foods – especially carbohydrates like popcorn – are not meant for the delicate digestive system of a deer.
Next, check our other articles on larger mammals and their popcorn consumption:
Sue’s favorite pastime? Watching a good movie with a giant tub of popcorn by her side. Her friends and family know that if they want to get her something, popcorn is always a safe bet. Sue has an adventurous spirit and loves to travel exploring new places – she’s been to more than 40 countries!