Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Winter Deer Foods

The following is a partial listing of tree and shrub species that are eaten by deer in the winter, arranged in order of quality and preference. This listing is based on thousands of observations in deer wintering areas over many years from all parts of New York State.

Winter Deer Food
Preferred or Best Liked
Cedar, white or arborvitae Yew Apple
Sassafras Mountain maple Maples*
Wintergreen Witch hobble Flowering dogwood
Alternate leaved dogwood Basswood Staghorn sumac
Second Choice
Elderberry Red berried elder Mountain ash
Highbush cranberry Highbush blueberry Willow*
Silky dogwood Red osier dogwood Honeysuckle
Nannyberry Cucumber tree Hemlock
Wild raisin Arbutus
Readily Eaten
White ash Sugar maple Oaks*
Black birch Yellow birch Hickory
American chestnut Black cherry Witch hazel
Spicebush Choke cherry Elm
Black walnut Shadbush, Winterberry Lowbush blueberry
Butternut Black ash Hazelnut
Wild grape Bush honeysuckle Leatherwood
Starvation or Poor Food
Scotch pine** Pitch pine** White pine**
Red pine** Beech Aspen or poplar
Mountain laurel** Rhododendron** Gray birch
Paper birch Musclewood (Blue beech) Ironwood (Hop hornbeam)
Spruces Alder Black locust
Grey-stemmed dogwood Red cedar Balsam**
Raspberry and blackberry Sweet fern Pin cherry
Sheep laurel Tamarack Gooseberry (current)*
Buckthorn Hawthorn

*There is considerable difference in palatability and preference of the different species of this genus.

**This species is often browsed heavily enough to appear to be second choice food in areas where winter food is inadequate.

  • PDF Help
  • For help with PDFs on this page, please call 518-402-8924.
  • Contact for this Page
    Bureau of Wildlife
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-4754
    Send us an email
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to all NYS regions