Many mammalian species use tall fescue for cover and food. Studies in Kentucky have indicated that the food most utilized by eastern cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus) was tall fescue, although the degree of use determined by the stomach contents was less than would have been predicted by tall fescue availability (Giuliano et al., 1994). For cover, eastern cottontails prefer a higher proportion of shrubs than normally provided by grasslands. In fact, Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands planted to cool-season grasses, primarily tall fescue, were deemed poor habitat for cottontails because of the lack of shrub cover (Hays et al., 1989).
The greater permanence of perennial grass vegetation compared to row crops makes grassland species better habitat for small mammals such as mice (Mus spp.) and voles (Microtus spp.). Mice typically eat grass seeds, while voles commonly consume vegetation, including roots. Voles may consume sufficient tall fescue vegetation to produce changes in grassland community structure (Clay, 2001). Larger mammals also make use of tall fescue as food. It is a particularly important food source during periods of low food availability from other sources in the winter. Evaluation of deer (Odocoileus virginianus) feeding habits in Missouri using video recording of feeding preferences indicated that tall fescue was an important component of the diet in that region (Beringer et al., 2004).