Does deer saliva kill a bush?

Asked May 20, 2015, 7:48 AM EDT

We've noticed that if deer start chomping on a bush, even if they don't get more than a little bit of the bush, we get widespread growth dying off. We were wondering if deer's saliva kills growth - or is it just the bush reacting to being a deer's meal?

Washtenaw County Michigan trees and shrubs deer

3 Responses

Deer saliva has no killing powers. If it did, deer would run out of food rapidly even if they just nibbled on something. When they came back for more, the plant would be too damaged to be nutritious. Many plants sustain light nipping damage and that's all that it is. Other than Komodo Dragon Lizards (and they do not live anywhere near North America), I can't think of anything with poisonous saliva.

If leaves just got a bit of damage and leaves were crushed or had small tears, they could dry up and turn brown because of a damaged vascular system. This would happen more rapidly with hot weather, windy weather or dry conditions.

Makes sense. We noticed it on small evergreen bushes, where the part not nibbled (still wrapped in burlap) still died.

We wrapped bushes for many years in burlap with no issues. This year and last year the deer aggressively attacked the burlap, ripping it off, and destroying thousands of dollars in bushes. Planting more grasses in their spots.

The extremely cold winter damaged many plants. Because of the cold and snow depths, deer were starving. They are not concerned with who owns what, just that they need food. Extreme cold + heavy snow cover = deer and other animals feeding to stay alive.