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Do Deer Eat Pumpkins? 14 Ways to Protect Your Garden

If you are a sustainability advocate and you are growing your own food, then you know the type of damage that deer can do to your garden. One of the worst things that can happen is finding all of your pumpkins eaten. Could it be a deer? Do deer eat pumpkins?

Key Takeaways

  • Deer eat pumpkins, attracted by their high sugar content and nutrients.
  • To protect pumpkins, use fencing, repellents, or scare tactics.
  • Identifying deer damage involves checking for large, ragged bite marks and nearby deer tracks.

For example, in the video below you can see a deer eating pumpkin:

Play Video

Now you know that deer can eat pumpkins. However, before looking at ways to protect your garden from deer, let’s make sure that it wasn’t some other animal to do the damage.

Did deer eat Your pumpkin? Or is it something else?

While deer pose a significant threat to pumpkins, they are not the only wildlife that may cause damage. Other animals, such as squirrels, raccoons, and birds, can also wreak havoc on your pumpkin patch.

Here are some tips to help you figure out what animal is eating your pumpkins:

  1. Examine the pumpkin for bite marks:
    • Deer tend to take large, ragged, torn bites with blunt edges since they have wide mouths and lack upper incisors.
    • Smaller animals like squirrels and raccoons leave smaller, more precise bites with clean-cut edges since they have sharper teeth.
    • Look for small tooth puncture holes which could indicate a squirrel.
  2. Check the surroundings for tracks and scat:
    • Deer tracks are cloven hoof prints with two pointed tips at the front. Their scat is clumped together.
    • Squirrel and raccoon tracks look like small handprints with five digits. Their scat is much smaller.
    • See if there are traces of fur or pumpkin seeds in the scat.
  3. Look for other signs:
    • Deer often knock over objects while foraging so check for trampled fencing, disturbed decorations, etc.
    • Squirrels may leave partially eaten pumpkin pieces scattered around as they take portions back to their nest.

If you are still not sure, set up a motion-activated camera pointed at the pumpkin patch to capture images of the animals at night. Deer are large enough to easily trigger the camera.

How to Protect Pumpkins from Deer

1. Fencing

One of the most effective methods to keep deer away from your precious pumpkins is by implementing physical barriers in the form of fencing. An 8ft high fence surrounding your pumpkin patch can serve as a reliable deterrent and prevent deer from accessing your crop. However, it is important to ensure that the fence is:

  • Sturdy, or deer will simply trample it.
  • High enough to keep even the most determined deer out. I suggest an 8ft tall fence.
  • Make sure that deer can’t see what’s on the other side of the fence. Deer will not attempt to jump if they don’t know where they are going to land.

This is the most reliable protection but requires an upfront investment. Here’s an affordable fence/netting option for you:

2. Fishing wire

If you don’t have the budget for a fence, then using fishing wire can be an effective and inexpensive method to deter deer from devouring pumpkins in a garden.

By strategically placing the wire around the perimeter of the garden, it creates a physical barrier that hampers deer access. The fine and nearly invisible wire leaves the deer confused, preventing them from reaching the pumpkins and ensuring a bountiful harvest.

3. Repellents

Applying smelly, nasty commercial or homemade sprays like hot pepper, rotten eggs, or soap on your pumpkins repeatedly can make them unappealing snacks for deer. Just reapply after the rain before the smells fade!

4. Scarecrow or decoys

Placing a huge, looming scarecrow or realistic plastic predator model like a coyote near your patch can play on deer’s instincts and frighten them away from feasting. Move the decoy every few days so deer will not get familiar with it.

5. Motion-activated sprinklers

Installing motion-activated sprinklers in your garden can startle deer with an unexpected spray of water, disrupting their snacking plans. This method can be highly effective, especially if you vary the spray patterns and locations regularly to prevent the deer from adapting to them.

However, sprinklers are not without their drawbacks. They require a water source and can inadvertently wet other garden plants, potentially causing damage.

6. Ultrasonic devices

Another option to deter deer is by using ultrasonic devices. These devices emit high-frequency sounds that are unpleasant to deer, encouraging them to vacate the area. Ultrasonic tones have the advantage of being silent to human ears, allowing you to peacefully enjoy your garden.

The Best Deer Repellent

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Nonetheless, it’s important to note that these devices might not work on all deer species, and deer could eventually become accustomed to the sounds, rendering the method less effective. However, motion-activated ultrasonic devices like the one below can help to avoid deer getting used to this type of deterrent.

7. Noisemakers

Wind chimes can be a charming and efficient method to deter deer from eating your pumpkins. The noise produced by the chimes can startle and confuse the deer, discouraging them from approaching your pumpkins.

Wind chimes are easy to set up and maintain, but keep in mind that they might also annoy your human neighbors if the sounds become too intrusive or constant.

8. Motion-activated Lighting

Deer are nighttime visitors, so flooding your garden with bright, blinking lights or motion-activated spotlights after dusk could make them uneasy about lingering. It also lets you see them in the act!

9. Dogs

Your trusted canine companion or strands of dog hair spread around the perimeter can deter deer with the smell and implied presence of their natural predator.

If you plan to get a dog, make sure to take a medium-large size to be effective in keeping deer at bay. A chihuahua is unlikely to scare a deer!

10. Companion Planting

Companion planting is another strategy that can be employed to keep deer away from your pumpkins. By planting companion plants that deer find unpalatable, you can create a natural barrier around your pumpkins. Examples of such plants include marigolds, garlic, and lavender.

11. Cover the plants

Consider using row covers or netting to shield your tender pumpkin plants from browsing deer. These barriers create a physical obstacle, preventing the deer from reaching the pumpkins. Just remember to remove them once the plants start flowering, allowing bees and other pollinators to do their important work.

12. Alter the garden layout

Position your pumpkin patch away from wooded areas and closer to the center of your garden. Creating a barrier of less appealing plants or shrubs (like boxwood) around the perimeter can also make it more challenging for deer to access your pumpkin haven.

13. Deer-resistant varieties

Opt for pumpkin varieties that deer find less palatable, such as Jack Be Quick or Baby Bear pumpkins. By choosing these varieties, you lower the chances of deer seeing your pumpkins as an irresistible snack. However, keep in mind that there aren’t any pumpkins that are truly deer resistant.

14. Plant sacrificial crops

Deer can be easily enticed by tastier treats, so consider planting attractive crops such as lettuce or alfalfa around the edges of your garden. This tactic can help divert the deer’s attention away from your precious pumpkins, keeping them satisfied with other options.

Remember, combining these additional methods with the previous ones will provide a comprehensive and robust defense against deer. Don’t be discouraged if one technique doesn’t yield immediate results. Deer are resourceful creatures, but with determination and a well-planned strategy, you can preserve your pumpkins and revel in a successful harvest season!

Precautions and Known Issues while Dealing with Deer and Pumpkins

While it’s important to protect your pumpkins from deer and other wildlife, it’s equally important to consider the potential precautions and issues that may arise when implementing protective measures.

  • Environmental sustainability: When choosing protective strategies, it’s crucial to consider the potential impact they may have on the environment. Avoid using harmful chemicals or substances that could contaminate the soil or harm other wildlife. Opt for environmentally friendly repellents and fencing materials whenever possible.
  • Safety: When implementing scare tactics or motion-activated devices, ensure that they do not pose a safety risk to humans or other animals. Avoid using devices that could cause injury or harm to anyone who may come into contact with them.
  • Compliance with local regulations: Before implementing any protective measures, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with local guidelines and regulations. Some areas may have restrictions on the use of certain repellents or fencing materials, so be sure to adhere to any local rules or restrictions.

Financial Impact on Farmers and Gardeners Due to Deer Damage

While it may be fascinating to learn that deer enjoy munching on pumpkins, it raises concerns for farmers and gardeners who grow these delightful orange fruits. The financial impact can be significant when deer damage pumpkin crops, and many other vegetables.

Deer are known to have voracious appetites, and when they stumble upon a pumpkin patch, they can cause widespread destruction. These gentle creatures can quickly turn into powerful pests, leaving behind devastation and financial loss for farmers and gardeners.

The damage inflicted by deer on pumpkin crops can range from nibbling on individual pumpkins to trampling the plants and leaving them in ruins. This can result in a substantial reduction in the yield of healthy pumpkins, leading to financial hardships for those who rely on their pumpkin harvest for income.

Additional Helpful Resources

If you want to learn more about protecting your pumpkins from wildlife damage, there are several helpful resources available. Here are a few sources you can refer to:

  1. deer resistant garden - bookLocal Agricultural Extension Offices – These offices often have resources and experts available who can provide guidance on wildlife management and pumpkin protection specific to your region.
  2. Become part of online gardening communities and forums where you can connect with experienced gardeners who have cleverly shielded their precious pumpkins from wildlife intrusions. Unlock a trove of valuable insights and firsthand stories that will help you safeguard your own garden oasis.

Remember, by taking proactive measures to protect your pumpkins from wildlife damage, you can ensure a bountiful harvest and enjoy the fruits of your labor without interference from squirrels, raccoons, birds, or other animals.


Is it advisable to slice a pumpkin for deer?

Yes, cutting up a pumpkin into pieces and scattering them outside would be a highly beneficial practice for attracting and nourishing deer. These animals possess a strong affinity for pumpkins and relish consuming all parts of the fruit, including the flowers, leaves, seeds, and flesh.

Additionally, pumpkins are easily digested by deer and provide them with a delectable food source. By offering cut-up pumpkins, you can entice deer to visit your location and provide them with a fulfilling treat.

Do deer eat pumpkins in gardens?

Deer have a strong affinity for pumpkins and will readily devour them in garden settings. The attractive flavors and textures of pumpkins appeal to these animals, who find the various parts of the fruit, such as flowers, flesh, seeds, and leaves, highly palatable.

This makes pumpkins a popular food choice among deer and often leads to their consumption in garden environments.