Deer can cause significant damage to lawns and gardens, and it's important to be able to recognize the signs of their presence in order to implement effective control measures. Here are a few examples of signs of deer damage in lawns and gardens:

Browsed leaves and twigs: One of the most obvious signs of deer damage is the presence of browsed leaves and twigs on plants. This can occur when deer nibble on the tips of branches or eat entire leaves, leaving plants with a ragged or bare appearance.

Cropped plants: Deer will also nibble down on entire plant, This can lead to a plants death if the damage is too severe.

Tracks and droppings: Deer leave behind tracks and droppings in areas where they have been feeding.

Damage to fences or gates: If deer are trying to enter a protected area, they may push against or jump over fences and gates, causing damage.

Rubbing and scraping: Bucks will rub their antlers against trees and bushes as a way of marking their territory. This can damage bark and leaves, which can leave a visible scar in the tree.

Damage to lawns : deer can cause extensive damage to lawns by grazing on grass, which can result in large bare patches.

Deer Damage Torn Foliage and Twigs vs. Clean Cut

Deer have no front incisor teeth so they strip bark by raking their incisors upward, making two-inch gouges. When they eat foliage, they tear it off, leaving ragged edges and surfaces on wigs, stems, and leaves. Deer damage will look random and ragged.  Rabbits, rodents, and woodchucks, leave a clean-cut edge. If you cut branches off with a knife or saw, this animal damage would look the same.
A rodent will leave a clean cut, usually angled. It looks like someone cut the plants with hand shears and angled the cut.

Deer Damage Clue - Damage Height

Rodents eat lower parts of trees, up to the height they can reach standing on their hind legs, which is much lower than deer damage. Deer will also eat plants up the level they can reach on their hind feet, so the height at which plants are damaged should eliminate most other suspects.

Deer Tracks

Deer leave deer tracks that distinctive hoof prints. The deer tracks are shaped like broken hearts and are about 2-3 inches long. Running deer leave tracks much farther apart than deer walking or grazing. Be aware however that there are other animals that leave similar tracks. Elk, cattle, llamas, and goats all have similar tracks, but obviously if you don't have any of those other animals in your neighborhood, the suspects are narrowed down considerably.


Scat, also called deer droppings, is a calling card that you will also find around deer damage. In the winter months when deer are mostly eating twigs and leaves, the droppings will be small elongated pellets. In the spring and summer months when deer are feeding on lush green shoots, leaves, grass, fruit, etc, the pellets clump together and are left as a mass. Droppings that are still shiny are from less than a day ago. Dull droppings may be days old.

Rabbit droppings may be mistaken for deer droppings, but are smaller and perfectly round. Goat and sheep droppings are more elongated. Skunks, raccoons, and opossums leave droppings like a dog.


 Deer are most active just after dusk and just before dawn. If your damage is being done in the daytime, look around your area for daytime feeders like goats or sheep. Sometimes even dogs will eat some plants. You might want to invest in a wildlife camera for less than $100 and get some pictures of what is going on around your property on a 24 hour basis.

What You See Is What You Get

You see deer in your yard and/or have to slow down regularly in your car so that you don't hit a deer. If you
are seeing them, the population is high enough to threaten your plants. The best time to see deer are around dusk and dark.

Deer Tracks Clipart

Deer Tracks