Growing pumpkins can be so rewarding as a gardener, they’re not easy. But there are a lot of animals that eat pumpkins and ruin that excitement.
Deer have been known to ruin a pumpkin patch by their shear weight and force. But do deer eat pumpkins?
Do Deer Eat Pumpkins?
Yes, deer do eat pumpkins. In fact, pumpkins are one of the deer’s favorite treats.
They love the taste of pumpkins and find them easy to digest. Deer will eat the pumpkin plant leaves, flesh, seeds, and even the rind/skin.
How to Tell if Deer Are Eating Your Pumpkins
There are quite a few animals that will eat pumpkins. Squirrels, chipmunks, birds, groundhogs and other animals can and will eat your pumpkins. I actually had to sprinkle cayenne pepper on my pumpkins so the squirrels would stop trying to eat them.
So how can you tell if deer are the ones eating your pumpkins?
1. Deer Footprints
Deer have pretty unique hoof prints. You might be able to see prints on the ground or the grass nearby, especially if it recently rained the ground is a little soggy.
If you see deer hoof prints nearby, there’s a good chance they’ve been eating your pumpkins.
2. Deer Scat
Deer droppings are typically pellets that are about the size of a pencil eraser. They are usually in piles as opposed to a few here and there, like you would see with rabbit droppings.
If you see droppings near your pumpkin, it’s likely that deer have been feeding on your pumpkins. Make sure to check around the area too, as they don’t always just leave droppings behind right where they’re eating.
3. Whole Plants Are Eaten or Flattened
Deer can weigh up to 160-170 pounds, so these are not lightweight animals we’re talking about. They will walk all over whatever is nearby the plant they’re going after, so you might see completely flatted grasses or plants nearby your pumpkins.
Deer will eat all parts of the pumpkin plant, whereas much smaller animals like squirrels will eat a smaller hole to get to the seeds. No part of your jack-o-lantern is safe.
How to Protect Pumpkin Plants From Deer
Since pumpkins attract deer, some people will put leftover pumpkins or leave their Halloween pumpkins in a nearby field as deer food.
But if you’re growing pumpkins for pumpkin pie or pumpkin seeds, then you aren’t as excited if you see deer in your yard. Keeping deer away from your garden, or getting rid of them can be quite tricky, but here are some good options for you.
1. Motion Activated Sprinkler
I’m putting this first because it’s my favorite option and a pretty reliable one.
Motion activated sprinklers shoot water when they detect motion in front of them. Since deer get startled by sudden movement and loud noises, as long as the sprinkler goes off they are going to be hightailing it out of there.
A motion activated sprinkler works wonders for keeping animals (and people!) out of your yard. It sprays intermittently as it detects continuous motion so animals won't get used to the timing of it.
Install a trail cam nearby and you’re going to enjoy this process a whole lot more. 🙂
I tested it out and it works! Here is the motion-activated sprinkler in action in my garden:
Pro Tip: Make sure to turn this off if you are going into the garden. And if you forget to turn it off, please send me the video of you realizing it just a second too late 🙂 Sorry, but that’s some funny stuff.
2. Tall Fencing
Fencing is the most foolproof option for keeping deer out of your garden. The only caveat is that the fence is going to need to be 8 feet tall or higher. Whitetail deer can jump up to 8 feet high.
Deer can jump really high, so if it’s anything less than that there is a chance they’re going to be rummaging through your pumpkin patch. If a deer is hungry and they come across pumpkins, a shorter fence is no obstacle for them to jump to get that treat.
3. Red Cat Eyes
These solar powered red eyes are pretty spooky in the pitch black. Deer and other animals see these and think their is a predator nearby, so they’ll stay away.
However, you want to make sure you’re moving these pretty regularly so the animals don’t get used to them being there.
What a genius idea! These solar-powered lights create an eerie glow in your garden to help simulate a large predator and deter:
4. Deer Repellent Spray
You can grab a deer repellent spray online that is made of natural ingredients like peppermint oil. garlic oil, and putrified egg solids.
These smell terrible.
If you’re going to spray them on plants you plan to eat later, it’s going to take quite a bit to get that scent off. That option might be best for pumpkins you’re leaving outside or carving.
You can also make your own repellant spray with combinations of:
- Hot sauce
- Cayenne peppers
- Dish soap
The milk and eggs will smell bad, but that’s the point as it helps deter deer.
5. Irish Spring Soap
Another strong scented option is Irish Spring soap. Some people swear by this method for keeping deer out of the garden.
You simply put a few bars of soap in some nylon stockings or another porous option and hang them on nearby fence posts or
6. Deer Netting
Deer netting can help a lot by making it almost impossible for deer to eat the pumpkins. The netting will block them from getting anything in their mouth, so while they might walk all over your plants and ruin some of them, they won’t be able to eat pumpkins.
Garden netting helps keep animals from ravaging your garden:
- And more
7. Deer Resistant Plants
Growing deer-resistant plants nearby is a good option, but I wouldn’t use this by itself. Planting certain crops near pumpkins can help keep deer away.
Deer are really nimble and if they are hungry enough, they’ll change their behavior and go after those pumpkins.
Some good deer resistant plants are:
- Almost any herb
Again, nothing is foolproof when it comes to deer. But these are a good addition to the other methods outlined in this article.
Deer Love Pumpkins
Yes, deer love eating pumpkins. If your pumpkin vine has been attacked and you want to keep them away from your garden, the only real foolproof way is to install a fence that is at least 8 feet tall. Other than that, you can try a motion-activated sprinkler as those work super well in my experience.