Deer eat a wide variety of mushrooms due to the taste, which they find pleasant, and the easy access they have to mushrooms.
Mushrooms are available most of the year, from spring to early winter. Depending on the mushroom species, they grow in a wide variety of forests and meadows and are easily accessible to deer.
What Mushrooms do Deer Eat?
Deer are herbivores and consume over 400 different species of plants. That number consists of several species of mushrooms.
Some of the mushrooms that deer would consume are the same ones that are edible to people, and many foragers often see deer eating the mushrooms while in the forest.
One of the most favorite mushrooms that deer would consume is the morel mushroom, highly prized in our cuisine. The morel grows beside Sycamore, dead elm trees, apple, and Ash trees.
Another edible for humans mushroom that deer munches on is bolete. This mushroom grows in sandy soil underneath trees, like beech, birch, oaks, pines, spruces.
Waxy caps, though edible for humans, are not the best-known culinary delicacy. Deer, on the other hand, has no qualms about eating them. They can be found in unimproved grasslands, very often in forest meadows.
Russula mushrooms, called brittle gills, provide a viable food source for deer. There are around 40 species of russula mushrooms in North America, and most of them are an easy treat for the deer to find.
Luxuriant ringstalk mushrooms are one of the non-edible types to humans that deer would consume from time to time. They are rather easy to find, as they grow on rotting conifer wood.
The deer will also eat puffball mushrooms. They are edible to humans in their early growth stage, but deer prefer them when they are already broken after releasing their spores.
Deer would also nibble on the newly grown polypores.
Some deer will also consume small doses of fly agaric mushrooms frozen under snow. It is a known psychedelic mushroom, and after digesting it, deer often act drunk-like, running aimlessly and calling.
When do Deer Eat Mushrooms?
Deer include mushrooms in their diet anytime they can find them. Depending on the mushroom species, deer could eat them during most of the year.
The earliest edible for deer mushrooms, like morel, grow during spring, as early as March, and continue till May. Most of the other mushrooms, like waxy cap and puffball, are available for deer during the summer months, the brunt of it during August and September, until middle fall.
The bolete mushrooms grow up until early winter, often found under the first layer of snow, and provide deer with a much-appreciated treat when the weather turns.
Why do Deer Eat Mushrooms?
Deer are foragers and often look to diversify their diet. Always with their head down, sniffing the foliage for anything edible.
By eating mushrooms, deer can get a little bit of nutrition. Mushrooms contain around 3% protein, 4% carbohydrates, 0.4% fat, and 1% minerals and vitamins, like niacin, pantothenic acid, and biotin.
Fresh mushrooms are also high in water content, at about 85–95%, and therefore valuable for deer.
But the most important reason why deer would eat mushrooms is their taste. Like for us, the mushrooms taste good for deer.
Are Mushrooms Poisonous for Deer?
Deer prefer to eat soft parts of plants, like buds, leaves, and young twigs, but they also eat mushrooms as a part of their diet. Deer like to peruse, and they usually eat small amounts of lots of different kinds of foods. It helps them to avoid being poisoned by accidentally digesting a large amount of poisonous food.
Deer stomachs are tougher than humans, and most mushroom varieties are relatively safe for them. Some wild mushrooms that would give us a stomach ache may be perfectly acceptable for deer in small amounts.
Living in the wild and knowing their environment, deer quickly learn which food they should avoid, and therefore there are smaller chances of them eating deadly poisonous mushrooms.
Deer make use of most edible foods they can find, and due to the abundance of mushrooms in deer habitat, they consume a large quantity of them.