Skip to Content

Do Deer Eat Black Walnuts?

Knowing what deer can eat is important if you want to feed them, and it’s also important if you want to know which plants in your yard need to be protected from hungry mouths and destructive nibbling.

If you have black walnut trees or you have access to a supply of these nuts, you may be wondering “do deer eat black walnuts?” and whether you need to protect your plants if so.

Black walnut trees can produce a lot of fruit, and people have mixed views on whether they are a good crop to own or not – but it’s a clear “no” when it comes to deer consumption.

Some people are interested in gathering black walnuts to use as bait when hunting deer, and otherwise wonder whether they can use the walnuts as food to help see the herds through the winter.

If you have a supply of them, you’ll know that the trees are prolific and you might be hoping to turn these into a viable deer food.

It’s always important to understand what deer will and won’t eat before you try spreading it around for them, otherwise you could cause issues that are hard to rectify, such as a full grove of tiny black walnut trees, or just a mess on the ground that is hard to clean up.

Don’t throw black walnuts about in protected areas or anywhere you would not want a tree to grow.

Do Deer Eat Black Walnuts?

If you have access to a big crop of black walnuts, you will unfortunately not be able to feed these to the deer in your area, because the deer will not eat them in most cases, even if they are very hungry.

Although deer do eat tough foods and will tackle even tree bark when food supplies are scarce, black walnuts shells are often too tough for them to crack.

Furthermore, black walnuts output a smell that deer find very off-putting, as they have a strong and pungent scent.

Deer will eat other kinds of nuts much more readily than black walnuts, and it is pretty rare for them to tackle this kind of food, even when they are very hungry and unable to access most other kinds of food.

Black walnuts will be snatched up by other creatures, such as squirrels, but the deer will usually just leave them lying around on the floor and ignore them in favor of pretty much any other option.

You may occasionally see a deer crunch up a black walnut, but it will usually only do this if the walnut is already out of its shell (or the shell has been crushed) and there is no other food available. In most cases, deer will simply move on and browse elsewhere.

Do Deer Eat Black Walnut Leaves?

If you are growing young black walnuts on your property, deer may sample the leaves of the trees, yes.

They prefer young leaves and shoots, and can strip a sapling quickly, or even eat a just sprouted seedling entirely without any difficulty. If a stump is sprouting, they will eat the sprouts from it, munching their way through them very happily.

However, deer often opt for other foods if they are available, and won’t eat black walnut leaves or stems by choice most of the time.

Many people plant rings of black walnuts at the edge of woodland in an attempt to deter deer from entering, but this can be problematic as black walnuts produce a chemical that stunts the growth of other plants, so these trees may be even more damaging to your woodland than the deer would be.

Once black walnuts are established, they are unlikely to be in much danger of being eaten by deer, but bucks will rub their antlers against them, which can damage the tree if this behavior is not checked, as it will tear away the bark and expose the tree to bacterial and fungal infections.

You may need to fence in black walnuts, especially when they are young and more vulnerable to being damaged or knocked over by bucks, if you want the trees to grow strong.

What Should You Feed Deer Instead Of Black Walnuts?

You can feed deer on a wide variety of different foods if you want to keep them healthy and strong in the winter, and many herds are at risk of starvation, particularly given the increase in housing developments and the reduction in natural woodland that has occurred in recent years.

You may wish to purchase a commercial deer feed, as this will offer a balanced and nutritious option.

Alternatively, try things like oats and legumes, which should all be safe for deer to consume, particularly if they are also supplementing their diets with grass and twiggy material from the nearby green areas.

Deer eat many other kinds of nuts, even if they don’t enjoy walnuts, so if you want to add plants that will provide them with food, consider things like acorns, hickory nuts, beechnuts, and hazelnuts.

You can plant trees that will offer these foods year after year, but you will need to protect these while they are young, or you’ll find that the deer eat them before they have the chance to get established.

You should only begin feeding deer if you plan to provide a reliable source of food, especially in the winter; the deer will start depending on you, and suddenly failing to supply them with food could result in mass starvation throughout the herd.

You should also be responsible about feeding and only seek to supplement their natural food supplies.


So, the answer to “do deer eat black walnuts?” is no, they don’t eat the nuts in most circumstances, although they may sometimes eat young leaves and tender shoots from these trees. On the whole, black walnuts are used to repel deer and keep them away from areas, and unfortunately, you cannot feed deer on this food. They will not eat the walnuts, even if you crack the shells, and will look for other options instead.