Foxes are omnivorous creatures, meaning they eat both meat and vegetation. Deer are also opportunistic feeders, which means they can eat virtually anything they find including deer.
However, a fox will not go out of its way to hunt deer. This is because a fox is just not large enough to take down a full-grown deer.
Furthermore, because foxes do not hunt in packs, it is difficult for them to take down a larger animal such as a deer. Nonetheless, foxes will opportunistically eat fawns (baby deer). They will also go after injured, old, and sick animals. They may even scavenge on a deer that other predators killed.
Why Don’t Foxes Eat Deer?
1. Foxes Are Smaller Than Deer
The primary reason foxes won’t hunt deer is that deer are significantly larger than foxes. In particular, the largest kind is the red fox, which may weigh up to 30 pounds. On the other hand, some deer species can weigh over 300 pounds.
No fox will be looking at a deer two to five times its size as a meal. It is too much hassle for a fox even to consider attacking.
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2. They Don’t Hunt In Packs
Foxes don’t hunt in packs, in fact, most foxes try to avoid other foxes. Even within a family, each member will hunt and forage for themselves.
Since they don’t have the help of companions, hunting larger animals like deer will be difficult for them to succeed.
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3. Foxes Are Nocturnal Hunters
Another reason deer do not appear regularly in a fox’s diet is because deer are not nocturnal. On the other hand, foxes primarily sleep in the daytime and hunt at night when they are most secure. This is because, at night, they have a significantly lower probability of coming into contact with humans or other predators.
As a result, because both animals are active at separate times, they are unlikely to meet. Instead, a fox would concentrate its hunting efforts on nocturnal prey such as mice, bats, and rats.
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Why And When Will A Fox Eat Deer Meat?
Foxes are opportunistic feeders. Meaning they take advantage of any opportunity that benefits them. They may attack the weakest deer of the herd, including the sick, the injured, and the old.
They also are opportunistic scavengers. Meaning that they frequently feed on carcasses left behind by other animals (Known as carrion).
While a fox isn’t strong and big enough to chase an adult deer, it may have better luck with fawns (baby deer). This is because foxes prefer to hunt and focus on smaller, not too dangerous animals, just like fawns. They are significantly lighter, smaller, and weaker than adult deer, making them an easy target.
However, this can be difficult for foxes since fawns are never far away from the mother and the rest of the herd. As such, while it is possible for a fox to subdue a fawn, it rarely happens. Also, mother deer are known to take care of their young for up to 1 year.
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What Animals Should Deer Avoid?
Deer are not typically seen as creatures at the top of the food chain. Instead, they are regarded as fearful, delicate creatures with various natural predators that actively hunt and eat them. They may be fast, but they can’t fight back.
Related: What Eats Deer?
Wolves are apex predators, which means they have practically no natural predators. Instead, they prey on a wide range of susceptible species, including deer.
Wolves hunt in packs. This implies they can take down larger prey like deer. Despite their smaller size, deer have little chance to battle against a pack of wolves unless they are exceedingly swift.
Coyotes hunt deer in the same way wolves do. However, coyotes, are sneakier than wolves and prefer smaller deer because they are easier to catch. When hunting for deer, they do it in pairs or small groups.
In other circumstances, when coyotes band together, they may wear down larger deer and trap them, providing them with enough food for a while.
3. Mountain Lions
Mountain lions are well-known deer hunters. In fact, mountain lions eat deer regularly! These lone, opportunistic predators prowl from nightfall until morning in search of prey.
They are ambush predators. They typically hide in the woods before pouncing on the deer and killing it with a powerful neck bite.
Due to their small population and geographical distribution, jaguars rarely interact with deer. However, jaguars will eat almost anything including deer when the chance presents itself.
Instead of chasing their prey, jaguars frequently follow and ambush them. And when it does, it bites through the skull, effectively piercing the deer’s brain.
Bears are opportunistic hunters and omnivores, which means they eat both plant stuff and meat. They will seek out meat sources to keep them and their families well-nourished and prepared for the winter. Bears are unlikely to chase and kill a fully grown deer deliberately. However, they may actively hunt fawns (baby deer).
What Do Foxes Usually Eat?
Foxes are omnivores meaning they eat a diverse diet of animals and plants. They focus on small animals such as rabbits, birds, rodents, mice, frogs, fish, and insects. They are also known to eat fruits and vegetables, including seeds, berries, and fungi.
The diet of a fox varies according to the location and availability of certain foods and seasonal changes.
Winter And Spring
Food may be scarcer than usual during these months, and they will change their diet and mostly move from ground eating, scavenging opportunities, to eating small mammals. Despite food scarcity, foxes do not hibernate.
In the summer, foxes may feast on insects and beetles, as well as crickets and earthworms. Birds and amphibians such as frogs and newts are also at risk from these cunning creatures.
In rare cases, foxes will even take a little dive into the water in quest of crabs.
During the autumn season, foxes like to feed on accessible berries such as blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, apples, and other fruits and tuber vegetables such as yams, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
Overall, yes, a fox can eat deer. However, it is extremely rare for this to happen and would usually only occur in exceptional circumstances. That is unless a fox stumbles upon a fawn far from its mother or a kill left behind by a larger predator or a deer that died naturally.
Joe is a freelance writer for FaunaFacts. Joe has written extensively about snakes for the site, but also contributes content about a range of animals.