Pumpkins are some of the tastiest and most versatile vegetables you could grow in your garden – not to mention that they come in handy around Halloween.
However, as deer are known to jump fences and eat just about anything, it’s important to know do deer eat pumpkins. You must also know how to keep deer from eating pumpkins, and in today’s article, I’ll be unraveling if pumpkins are susceptible to deer damage and how to keep them away.
Do Deer Eat Pumpkins
Yes, deer do eat pumpkins. In fact, because of their high nutritional value and the high nutritional needs of deer – they make the perfect food for them. A deer feeding only on pumpkins would be a very healthy deer!
For reference, 100 grams of raw pumpkin (100 grams is a standard unit of measurement for nutrition) provides deer with 26 kilocalories. It is also a great source of vitamins A and C.
It’s also mostly water (92%) just like watermelon, making it an obvious choice for deer. This, of course, makes pumpkin farmers and enthusiasts in pumpkin competitions see deer as pests.
Is It Safe for Deer to Eat Pumpkins
Aside from the stem, which is known to be prickly, pumpkin is safe for deer to eat. When eating it, deer know they have to break it apart (which they usually do with their legs) and only eat the insides.
Pumpkins usually aren’t toxic, but the word usually is written in italics for a reason. Along with cucumbers and zucchini, pumpkins belong to a group of crops called cucurbits.
Cucurbits produce chemicals called cucurbitacins. When you eat a pumpkin, these chemicals give the fruit a bitter taste. Normally, cucurbitacins aren’t dangerous in the slightest – garden variety pumpkins contain very low amounts of them.
However, wild pumpkins, and garden pumpkins that are crossed with wild pumpkins, can contain dangerous amounts of cucurbitacins! While cucurbitacins in high amounts normally don’t cause serious medical emergencies, they can be extremely unpleasant.
They’re known to cause difficult indigestion and painful symptoms, such as strong stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. The worst part it – the symptoms are known to last for days!
Because of this, experts recommend that you don’t eat pumpkins, zucchini, or cucumbers if they taste very bitter.
The same can be said for deer. While they probably have a higher level of tolerance because they’re wild animals, a deer overfeeding on wild pumpkins will experience similar symptoms.
This won’t harm the animal seriously or kill it, but they’ll definitely remember not to eat pumpkins anymore.
Will Pumpkins Regrow After Deer Eat Them
Unfortunately, no. Pumpkins are vegetables, although there is a debate to be made there (strictly technically speaking), and they grow from seeds. Seeds that became pumpkins once cannot be reused – new seeds need to be planted.
That means that once those pesky deer invade your garden, destroy your pumpkins, and have a feast, there’s nothing left for you to do but plant new pumpkins!
Pumpkins will not regrow after deer eat them.
Are There Deer Resistant Pumpkins
All uncontrollably grown pumpkins can be considered deer resistant as there’s a chance of cucurbitacin poisoning – this is why authorities recommend only buying pumpkins commercially.
The so-called Jack-B-Quik variety of pumpkins is known for having a high concentration of cucurbitacin.
Baby Bear pumpkins are another variety that will likely cause food poisoning if eaten.
Aside from those varieties, which are usually grown for decoration, not for food, there are no truly deer-resistant pumpkins.
How to Keep Deer from Eating Pumpkins
Well, if you’re lucky, a deer won’t return to eat your pumpkins if they’ve had a bad experience the last time they tried them. Animals know not to eat plants that once hurt them, and this applies to pumpkins as much as to other plants.
Unlike fruit that grows on tall trees, there’s a cheap and effective way of keeping pumpkins free from pests such as deer, raccoons, and other large pests.
You can build small fence cages. We’ll go deep into the idea of fencing your entire garden later, but since pumpkins don’t grow too large sizes (unless you’re growing giant pumpkins for competitions), you can buy a cheap metal mesh fence and build small cages around your pumpkins with it.
This will prevent deer from getting near and destroying your pumpkins. Admittedly, a deer could break through the fence if it tried really hard, but it will likely give up after seeing an obstacle.
Unfortunately, this leaves the rest of your plants unprotected, which is why it’s best to keep deer out of your garden entirely!
Here’s how to do just that.
Keeping Deer Out of Your Garden
There are three basic ways of keeping all animals, including deer, out of your garden; mechanical obstacles, repellents, and scaring them away.
The most effective mechanical obstacle that will keep deer out is, obviously, a fence. Although they’re known to be able to jump really high, deer usually can’t jump more than 7 feet – and even this is extreme.
They only jump this high if they’re running from predators, but a deer won’t be motivated enough to jump over such a tall fence just because they’re hungry.
This is also a good way to keep other large animals out of your yard and garden. You must, however, invest in a strong metal fence that won’t get bent out of shape if a 200-pound deer slams into it at full speed (be it on purpose or by accident).
A lot of gardeners refrain from investing in fences this tall because, frankly, they’re expensive.
To sum up – fences are the most effective way to keep deer out, but they’re also the most expensive ones too!
Scaring Them Away
Animals don’t want to risk their lives for food – even a crocodile won’t feel comfortable leaving the water (it’s safe ground) if there are lions around. They’ll only take huge risks if they’re starving.
This is why scaring tactics are very effective with animals. In the wild, animals are afraid of only a few things – predators (and since deer are largely defenseless, they see everything as a threat), loud noises, and blinding lights.
As for predators, unless you feel like standing on guard and scaring deer away from your garden, the simplest solution is to let your dog in the garden. A deer won’t approach a garden if it hears and smells a barking menace inside!
Breeds such as German Shepherds and Rottweilers are very effective at keeping invaders at bay.
You can also install devices that will scare them off. Invest in motion sensors, which are cheap, and hook them up to sprinklers. Every time a deer jumps over the fence, it’ll get a gush of water sprayed in its direction, causing them to run away.
There’s also a more expensive method of connecting motion sensors to speakers and blinking lights to cause panic. This is also very effective, but it can be more difficult to install, while integrated systems are usually expensive.
We’ll go deep into natural repellents later, but know that chemical repellents are very effective at repelling deer. They’re usually based on scents that deer instinctively react negatively to, such as predator scents, scents of plants they don’t like to eat, or scents that remind them of something painful (pepper, garlic, hot sauce, etc.).
While they’re the cheapest option, repellents aren’t as effective as other methods we’ve explored. They evaporate over time (usually after two weeks) and they’re easily washed off by rain. Also, some animals simply get used to them and learn to ignore them.
There are also chemical repellents that are dangerous to use, such as moth balls, because people and pets can eat them by accident and suffer severe medical consequences.
Because of this, I’d recommend using them as a short-term solution until you fund a fence or a scaring mechanism.
Making Home-Made Deer Repellent
You don’t have to run to the store for this – you can make your own deer repellent, and it can be just as effective – here’s how!
Smells That Repel Deer
Deer are repelled by the smell of rotting boiled eggs, garlic, pepper, tabasco sauce, chili flakes, and predator urine (although I doubt you have wolf or bear urine laying around your home).
How to Make Home-Made Deer Repellent
Simple, quick, effective.
All you need is water and any one of the ingredients mentioned above.
Step 1 – Grinding the Ingredients
If you’re using garlic or boiled eggs, you’ll need to grind it finely in a blender. This isn’t necessary with pepper, chili flakes, or tabasco – you just need 3 tablespoons of it per gallon of water.
Step 2 – Mix with Water
Mix the ground ingredients with a gallon of water and your homemade repellent is ready to be applied
Step 3 – Spray the Repellent
Keep in mind that tabasco, pepper, and chili-based repellents work because they’re spicy to deer – you need to spray them on the plants eaten by deer. Once a deer bites into a plant, it’ll hate the taste and learn to leave the plant alone.
Garlic and boiled eggs are just disgusting to smell, so you only have to spray it around your garden and they’ll turn away as they smell it.
Verdict: Do Deer Eat Pumpkins
Deer are avid pumpkin eaters, and aside from wild pumpkins which can cause severe gastrointestinal issues, they’re safe for them to eat. In fact, deer love pumpkins because of their high nutritional value.
The best way to protect your pumpkin from deer is by building small fence cages or by erecting a fence around your entire garden.
You can also use scare tactics and repellents to keep them away, while homemade repellents can be as effective as store-bought ones!