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stanhorst
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Location: Virginia

Deer and Blueberries?

Does anyone know if deer like blueberries? I planted a couple of bushes two years ago. They developed plenty of small berries on them, but before we could harvest, they completely disappeared. The only tracks nearby were those of deer.

Thanks,
Stan Horst
Blue Ridge Mtns of Virginia

Tigerlilylynn
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https://www.mdwfp.com/Level2/Wildlife/Game/Deer/Articles.asp?article=121

"Most Mississippi biologists consider blueberries low preference browse for white-tailed deer. In addition, a 1972 study of biologists across the Southeast gave blueberries a low preference rating. However, exceptions to this low opinion do exist. In Forest Plants of the Southeast, Miller and Miller rate deer preference for blueberry as moderate. Biologists monitoring use of blueberries in the Lower Coastal Plain and the Coastal Flatwoods observe moderate utilization of plant forage and therefore rate the plant as preferred or important. As a rule, most biologists see no utilization of blueberries during the growing season. If deer browsing occurs, it seems to be limited exclusively to the winter months.

Warren and Hurst in an east-central Mississippi study rated blueberries high when only use of the forage or leaves was considered. Interestingly, and possibly related to Warren and Hurst’s findings, Mississippi biologists note moderate blueberry use outside the Lower Coastal Plain and the Coastal Flatwoods when preferred browse is not readily available.

It is well documented that deer feed on less preferred plant species when population levels are in excess of environmental carrying capacity and the presence of preferred plant species is minimal. Spencer and Castle made this same observation examining browse pressure on Red Creek WMA in the Lower Coastal Plain. At the time Red Creek WMA supported a moderate deer population and utilization of blueberries was heavy.

In summary, some plants are fed on by deer in all soils and at all population levels. Other plants seem to never be utilized by deer in any conditions. Then there are plants like blueberries, whose utilization is governed by site specific conditions. Utilization of plants of this type is very difficult to predict. "

So...maybe? From what else I read it seems like the bushes themselves are the target of hunger and need to be watched in winter and poultry netting should be used to keep the birds and everything else with taste buds away while fruiting.

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rainbowgardener
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Deer like everything! They have favorites and less preferred as noted above, but if they get hungry, they will eat ANYTHING, even the supposedly deer proof things.

However, they aren't big fruit eaters. If they were eating your blueberries, they would eat them leaves and branches and all. If just the berries were disappearing, I would suspect birds, who don't leave tracks!

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Kisal
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:lol: :lol: :lol: I'm with RG! Deer will eat just about anything! Around here, they're particularly fond of browsing on blackberry bushes ... leaves, stems and all.

I would bet the birds took your blueberries. The scrub jays wouldn't even fly away when I would go out to pick my blueberries. They'd just sit in the bushes, right by my hands, and squawk at me for stealing "their" berries. :lol:
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

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tomf
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Deer eat even the things they are not supposed to like. If the deer ate your blue berries as said above every thing would be eaten. Deer do love apples and some other fruits. I put my berries in a big cage so the birds do not eat them.

This is a photo looking at the cage, you can see it past the crops in front.
sorry I do not have a better photo.

[img]https://i37.photobucket.com/albums/e57/twistedtomf/garden_DSC0015.jpg[/img]

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Pineville
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This link from Maryland Cooperative Extension has some great info on deer resistant plants:

https://extension.umd.edu/publications/PDFs/FS655.pdf

Highbush Blueberry is on the list of 'frequently damaged.'

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stanhorst
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Location: Virginia

Thanks everybody. My guess is that since just the berries were gone and the bushes were not damaged, that the birds got the berries like several of you said. I'll have to try netting this year and see if that makes a difference.
Stan Horst
Blue Ridge Mtns of Virginia

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