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Mr. Smarty Plants - Native grasses for New York to feed deer

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Saturday - January 02, 2010

From: Town of Holland, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Deer Resistant
Title: Native grasses for New York to feed deer
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

What native grasses do you recommend to encourage deer forage in feed plots?

ANSWER:

Grasses are, generally, a very small percentage of the deer's diet.  For instance, the Texas Department of Wildlife's publication "White-tailed Deer Management in the Texas Hill Country" says that, since mature grasses are not easily digested by deer, they tend to eat grasses only when they are young and tender.  In fact, grasses make up less than 10% of their diet at any time of the year. They are more inclined to eat forbs (broadleaf herbaceous plants generally thought of as weeds or wildflowers) and browse (leaves and twigs of shrubs and trees).  

That said, here is a list of grasses native to New York that deer will eat when they begin to sprout in the spring and are young and tender.  As the grasses mature and go to seed, they have the added benefit of being attractive to birds and small mammals. 

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Tripsacum dactyloides (eastern gamagrass)  Not only will the deer eat the young foliage of gamagrass, but they also love to eat the corn-like seed grains.

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Native forbs are more likely to attract the deer to your feed lot than any grasses you plant.   Here are a few New York native forbs that you could plant that deer like to eat:

Desmodium canadense (showy ticktrefoil)

Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem artichoke)

Chelone glabra (white turtlehead)

Impatiens capensis (jewelweed)

New York trilliums, such as Trillium cernuum (whip-poor-will flower) and Trillium grandiflorum (white trillium).

Finally, here is a list of Winter Deer Foods, featuring browse—shrubs and trees, compiled by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 

Since you are involved in setting up and maintaining a food plot for deer, it would probably be a good idea to read Deer Feeding Regulations from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

You can also read more about Food Plots for White-tailed Deer from Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, but you should realize that most of the plants they recommend (e.g., alfalfa, the clovers and soybeans) are not native to New York or North America.

Here are photos of the plants above from our Image Gallery:


Elymus canadensis

Andropogon gerardii

Sorghastrum nutans

Tripsacum dactyloides

Panicum virgatum

Bouteloua curtipendula

Desmodium canadense

Helianthus tuberosus

Chelone glabra

Trillium cernuum

Trillium grandiflorum

 

 

 

 



 

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