While it may seem unusual to us, deer eat a variety of different species. At the top of that list of unusual things that deer eat is fish.
Deer eat fish to extract proteins and vitamins from them. They do this throughout the year because of the high amount of nutrition they require.
Finding a fish to eat provides the deer with a boost in nutrition that can help the growth of antlers, provide offspring with extra nutrition, or provide extra energy during the rut.
Why Do Deer Eat Fish?
Deer eat fish mostly for protein; they need a lot of protein in their diet, especially when they are growing antlers.
This growth period uses a lot of protein. Deer are continuously grazing to get protein from plants; however, they will get their protein from somewhere else if given the opportunity.
This protein could be small birds, carrion, and quite often fish.
Many studies have been done on the effects of protein on deer antlers. One study undertaken from 1974 to 1977 studied two sets of penned deer, each with a different ration of protein in their diet.
One set had 8% protein, while the other had 16% protein. The results were that the deer fed 16% protein had double the antler size of the deer fed 8% protein.
A later study shows that the need for protein goes much further than antler growth. The need for quality protein is also required for healthier offspring and even their offspring.
The study shows that deer with a lower protein and reduced nutritional diet produce smaller offspring with smaller antlers and that their offspring will also produce smaller offspring.
What Nutrients Do Deer Get From Fish?
Deer get a whole host of nutrients from eating fish. During winter, a deer’s natural diet is greatly reduced when plant life is scarce.
By eating fish, they can supplement their diet with much-needed nutrients.
Fish can provide deer with omega 3 fatty acids and much-needed calcium and phosphorus.
A deers dietary requirements change throughout the year according to season.
However, deer are opportunistic when seeking nutrients and will take excess nutrients any time they can get them.
During spring, bucks can get the extra protein required to build muscle. At the end of spring, bucks will be growing out antlers; this will require a much-increased amount of protein and calcium; both can be found in high quantities in fish.
Summer may seem like a great time for deer, but it’s actually quite a difficult time because of drought. During this time of year, does are nursing and need to pass protein to fawns through their milk.
Bucks are growing antlers and need protein, calcium, and phosphorus.
During summer, deer will feed on many meat-based animals and can be seen eating nesting birds, as well as any fish they may find.
In fall, any extra carbohydrates are a welcome addition to a deers diet. Deer require a lot of energy during fall and will happily snack on a fish to gain this extra energy.
In winter, all food sources are scarce for deer; deer will readily eat anything that will help them survive during this time of year.
They are constantly on the lookout for anything edible during this time and can be frequently seen walking on lake ice looking for any carrion, particularly fish that can provide them with energy and omega 3 fatty acids.
What Fish Do Deer Eat?
Deer will eat any fish they can find. The most common fish deer eat is the alewife.
One study showed that deer commonly eat these fish that wash up on the shores of Lake Michigan.
It appears that deer don’t have a preference for any type of fish but rather will eat whatever is accessible.
Most fish is an easy source of protein for deer because the bones are small and easy to chew. The flesh and skin is also easy to chew.
How Do Deer Get Fish?
Deer are not predatory animals and don’t go out hunting fish; instead, they find dead fish along the shores of lakes, rivers, and seas.
Deer have frequently been seen scouring the shores along Florida lakes, looking for washed-up fish.
Deer eat fish regularly and will always take the opportunity is given. Deer eat fish for the nutritional benefit and the increased protein it will provide them with.