Popcorn is a great snack that many enjoy in movie theatres, at events, and on road trips. People have found many ways to eat different types of vegetables, but other animals, such as deer may not be as fond of them as we are. So do deer even like popcorn?

When hungry, deer will eat popcorn, although they prefer other kinds of corn. Deer prefer to have a variety of options, so it is advised to create a mix of popcorn, kernels, seeds, and fruit and place that in areas where the deer frequently go to feed. 

Popcorn can be fed to deer directly, or used to attract other wildlife. Here is everything you need to know about deer and their popcorn preferences.

Can You Feed Deer Popcorn?

There are many people who like to feed deer and treat them almost like pets. Some people encourage deer to come into their yards, and they can even get the deer to eat straight out of their hands.

When feeding deer as a way to befriend or help them, it is not a good idea to feed them popcorn, or any kind of corn for that matter. Instead, you should feed them oats, legumes, and specialty deer food mixes.

Often on wildlife routes, tourists like to purchase feed specifically for the wildlife on that route. However, others will throw any food that they find at the wildlife, including candies, nuts, and popcorn. Deer in these areas could acquire a taste for these snacks, which will not be good for them in the long run.

How to get a deer to eat out of your hand: 

If you want to hand-feed a deer, there are a few steps to take to get the deer to trust you and comfortably eat out of your hand.

  1. Before you can hand-feed the deer, it is important that you establish a reliable relationship, and allow the deer to be comfortable in your presence. You should not try and get them to eat out of your hand right away. Instead, you should scatter food around and watch from a distance.
  2. After the deer get comfortable with the food and with your presence, you can start to scatter the food closer to where you are. It may take the deer a while to trust you. While the deer are eating the food you have scattered, do not make any sudden movements or attempt to approach the deer.
  3. After the deer have become comfortable in your presence, you can test and see if they are ready to eat out of your hand. You should scatter food around, but have a different type of food in your hand so that it will interest the deer. Hold the food in an open palm, facing upward, and hold it steady. Do not force the deer to eat out of your hand. Instead, allow the deer to approach at their own free will. This may take several tries, so do not be disappointed if it does not happen right away.

The video below shows some more tips and a demonstration of how to get deer to eat out of your hand.

What Makes up a Deer’s Diet?

Deer are herbivores, which means that they only eat plants and fungi.

Deer have special enzymes in their saliva which allow them to eat a large variety of plants. These enzymes break down plant compounds that can disrupt digestion, such as tannins.

For example, deer can eat acorns in large quantities that would kill a cow. However, they have less complex gastro-intestinal tracts, so they eat forages and plants that are higher quality and more easily digestible than the diet of cattle or elk.

Whitetail deer require more easily digested forages to fulfill their protein and energy requirements. Whitetail deer can starve to death on a full stomach if they eat forages that are not rich in nutrition or are not easily digestible.

The whitetail rumen, or stomach, is full of microorganisms that help digest food, but it takes them at least a week to adjust to each new food type taken in.

“If those microorganisms can’t adapt by taking in small amounts over some time, the result is such a shock to the system it can kill deer pretty quickly.”

Kip Adams, certified wildlife biologist

Is Popcorn healthy for Deer? 

Popcorn, and corn in general, are not good for deer. This popcorn is an example of a food whitetail deer can fill themselves up on and still die from starvation.

Corn is only 9% protein and has a poor mineral profile which can cause digestive upset and metabolic problems in deer. There is little nutritional value for deer who eat corn.

Popcorn with tons of butter, salt, and other seasonings may be more attractive to deer, and the stronger scent will draw them closer to it, however, the extra butter on the popcorn adds a layer of fat that is unhealthy for the deer.

Salt, on the other hand, is good for deer. Salt is an important part of a deer’s diet.

If you want to feed and care for the deer, you should choose food that is nutritious and beneficial. A little bit of popcorn will not hurt the deer, but a lot of popcorn can have serious, detrimental effects.

What Other Animals Like Popcorn?

If you are scattering popcorn and hoping to see some deer, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. There are a large variety of animals that prefer and will eat the popcorn before the deer get a chance to even consider it. Here are a few examples:

Bears: In some areas, popcorn is referred to as “bear candy”. Bears will eat pretty much anything that they find, and popcorn is no exception. Scattering popcorn in an area when bears are around will likely attract them.

If you are trying to attract deer with popcorn, you may be in for a surprise, as bears are more likely to show and seek out food, especially popcorn.

Birds: There are many types of birds that enjoy eating popcorn. Crows, grackles, and geese are just a few examples. If you scatter popcorn around, you may attract more birds than deer, and the popcorn will be gone before you get the chance to look for deer.

The popcorn should be popped without butter or salt. Although popcorn offers no nutritional value for birds, they enjoy snacking on it.

Squirrels: This animal should surprise no one. Squirrels will eat anything that they can get their hands on, and popcorn is no exception. If a squirrel finds popcorn scattered out, they will take and eat as much as possible.

However, if you want to attract squirrels, popcorn is a good way to go. Popcorn and any other scattered food are likely to be foraged by squirrels.

These squirrels are bad news if you are looking to attract deer with popcorn.

When camping, or when you are out in the wild, it is a good idea to secure your food safely so that wildlife will not get into it.

Additional Information On Animals Eating Popcorn

Are you curious about what animals can eat popcorn? Click here for an animal overview or click on an animal below to find out specific details:

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