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Do Deer Eat Rhubarb? (Read This First!)

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Rhubarbs are perennials that grow year round mostly in late autumn and early spring. They are easy to maintain, just need full sun to grow. However, they are also well known to the people  because of their higher toxicity level named  oxalate crystals. 

But before planting them in the garden, you must be well aware of its toxicity level and keep your pets far away from them.

Do deer eat rhubarb?

Deer don’t eat rhubarbs nor even like them because of their acute acidic smell and texture but still there’s a chance of eating rhubarbs only when they’re starving or there’s no other sources of food. Moreover, it’s not good for deer as it contains oxalic acid which may cause fatal diseases to them.

Deer do not eat rhubarb since it is hazardous to them due to the presence of compounds called oxalic acids in it. Deer are prickly animals who will not eat food that does not appeal to their senses. Rhubarb contains oxalate, which has a pungent acidic odor that repels them. 

They also do not find these plants appealing. Deer also avoid any leaves with an unattractive bristly texture. Deer dislike rhubarb leaves because they have a nifty velvety fuzzy texture. 

Also, the oxalate crystals in rhubarb plants have an unpleasant impact when eaten in excessive amounts, producing indigestion in deer and causing drooling and leathery, and the calcium oxalate in plasma decreases calcium levels, making urination difficult.

Rhubarb leaves: 

Just like the plants, deer avoid eating the rhubarb leaves because of their spiny texture. These leaves are also unpalatable because they contain the same oxalate compounds found in the plant, which can cause toxicity, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness. 

The leaves are more poisonous than those of rhubarb plants, with greater oxalate levels. Deer have a keen sense of smell and can detect the pungent acidic stench of rhubarb leaves from a long distance, causing them to avoid eating them.

Rhubarb plants: 

Rhubarb plants are avoided by deer. Because they are poisonous and have a foul stench, deer generally avoid them. Anthraquinone, which is found in plants, is toxic to deer.

Apart from that, rhubarb plants are not as attractive as other plants, so they do not flourish on them. Deer avoid the plants in the summer because they become woody and have a bland flavor.

Rhubarb stalks: 

Deer can consume rhubarb stalks in tiny amounts since they have less toxicity due to fewer oxalate crystals and a milder odor, so they can eat them. 

Because the stalk contains antioxidants and vitamins A and C, deer can consume the rhubarb stem but not the plant or leaves. 

However, keep in mind that consuming more than thirty to forty percent rhubarb toxicity may endanger deer’s lives by causing hepatic and kidney damage.

Do deer like rhubarb? 

Rhubarb plants and leaves are disliked by deer due to their bitter taste, foul odor, and poisonous effects after consumption. Deer prefer plants with pleasant scents and narrow leaves with good texture and flavor. 

The oxalate acid in rhubarb has a strong acidic smell, and deer dislike strongly scented plants. Rhubarb leaves with a rough texture do not frequently attract deer. 

Deer loathe rhubarb plants because of their poisonous properties, so they stay away. Due to the presence of calcium oxalate in the rhubarb leaves, they begin to bloat, decrease urine excretion, and generate excess saliva, which irritates them the most during the whole day. 

Typically, deer aren’t fond of cooked rhubarb since it becomes more poisonous after cooking and has a soury, mushy texture. Rhubarb is avoided and disliked by deer due to its strong odor, unpleasant taste, and higher level of tresistan.

Is rhubarb deer resistant? 

Rhubarb plants and leaves are deer resistant because they exude a strong oxalate fragrance that deer can detect from a distance and avoid. Deer are grazers who prefer aromatic flowers but dislike strong or odd odors. 

Therefore, growing rhubarb in the garden can assist gardeners in keeping annoying deer away.

Deer are deterred not only by the smell of the plant but also by the texture of the plant and leaves. When deer eat plants, they don’t like rough or hairy textures. 

Therefore, when they notice the fuzzy or hairy texture of rhubarb leaves, they don’t find them interesting and continue on in their quest for food. 

Deer also dislike the sour taste of it, and they avoid plants and leaves that are difficult to digest that cause them indigestion-like problems. Rhubarb has both these repellent qualities, so it works well as a deer repellent.

What happens if deer eat rhubarb? 

Rhubarb shouldn’t be served to deer as they can fall into acute diseases such as: 

Renal failure or chronic kidney disease: 

The leaves of the rhubarb contain high soluble oxalates, which is known for its toxicity towards animals. It carries approximately 570–1,900 mg soluble oxalates per 100 grams that easily get absorbed into the bloodstream and cause kidney disease for the deer. 

Because of this higher toxic compound, the calcium ions and oxalate acid get binned up together. The essential calcium is removed which causes rapid fall of calcium level. It results in kidney stones, hypoglycemia, nephrosis and even total renal failure in the deer.

Severe pain and burning to mouth and throat: 

The large leaves of rhubarb contain a high number of calcium oxalate crystals which makes it harder to chew for the deer and it is combined with an unpleasant taste. 

When these shrubs are chewed by the deer, these crystal oxalates are embedded in the soft tissues which causes acute aggravation, severe pain, irritation and burning sensation to the tissues. 

Wherever it comes in contact with like mouth and throats and even towards down the gastrointestinal tract. However, the reaction is not fatal but they face a lot of physical difficulties.

Stomach disturbance: 

It has been proven that oxalic acid can cause many stomach related problems like diarrhea, dysentery, vomiting and others. This poisonous effect also occurs due to the presence of toxic compound, oxalate acid. 

If deer intake rhubarb more than 1% of their body weight, they can face physical issues. Nausea, bloating, severe weakness, troubled breathing, gestational dyspepsia can also be noticed in deer. 

How do you keep deer from eating rhubarb?

Follow these ideas to keep deer from eating rhubarb: 

Secure the garden by building a fence: 

The most reliable and effective way is to build up a fence around your garden or only the place where rhubarb has grown. As deer can jump much higher, the height of the fence has to be minimum 8 feet to maximum 12 feet. 

Another trick you can apply is to build a short but double fence keeping a minimum 5 feet distance from one another as the deer don’t try to jump if the distance is wider. 

Use simple home remedies: 

Dusting the leaves of rhubarb with spices like red pepper or black pepper or spray with dishwashing detergent can be a great trick to keep them far from rhubarb. Irish soap works great as a deer deterrent. 

Again, human hair or other human accessories or dried blood meal work well as they are afraid of the smell of humans. 

Keep rocks around the garden: 

Keeping various sizes of curved and various shaped rocks and stones around the rhubarbs or in the whole garden will keep deer away as deer avoid rocky areas. You have to keep the rocks close to one another so that deer can’t walk across the garden.

Plant the trees that deer dislike: 

As deer have a keen sense of smell, they rely on it for choosing their food. Plan trees that have quite strong fragrance like rosemary, garlic, lavender, marigolds, lemon balm etc. around the rhubarbs as they normally don’t like their smell and avoid the place. 

What’s eating my rhubarb? 

Typically rhubarbs aren’t a daily food for cattle or deer, rabbits or for insects but occasionally they may eat. Deer can eat rhubarbs when they starve or there’s scarcity of their foods. 

As cattle like cows, goats, sheep are herbivores and live upon eating grass, plants, legumes, shrubs, they often eat it. Snails, slugs and other pests are the common guests of rhubarbs that not only eat but also make their shelter in the leaves and also lay eggs. 

So, if you’re looking for who’s eating your rhubarbs, here’s the names that perhaps the culprits: 

  • Cows
  • Sheep
  • Raccoons
  • Snails and Slugs
  • Bugs 
  • Caterpillars
  • Beetles etc. 

Final Thoughts 

Usually, deer don’t eat rhubarbs as they aren’t easy to chew and have a strong odor but if they don’t find other foods, they may eat rhubarbs as well. However, they should be protected from eating rhubarb as it contains oxalate acid which is hazardous for their health and can even take their lives.

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