Hill Country browse

The Texas Hill Country has the highest density of shrub-eating animals in the United States.

Texas is home to about 4 million white-tailed deer, and about half of them live in the Hill Country and Edwards Plateau. In addition, Texas is home to more than 2 million goats, sheep and exotics, and the majority of these live in the Hill Country. These animals depend on browse, the leaves and tender twigs of woody plants, as an important part of their diet.

There are about 200 species of woody plants native to the Hill Country and an average ranch may have 30 – 60 different types. Knowing how to identify, appreciate and manage browse plants is one of the primary jobs of successful ranchers and wildlife managers.

Scientific studies have revealed the importance of browse in the diet of small ungulates, and when it comes to white-tailed deer, browse is the primary part of their diet. Deer also eat mast, forbs and some grass, but browse is what keeps them alive most of the time. Table 1 shows the percentage of browse in the diet of deer, livestock and common exotics based on studies done at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area.

Read more from Steve Nelle and the Texas Wildlife Association.