View Full Version : Odd deer behavior.

November 1, 2000, 10:03 PM
My uncle related this story to me about his hunt yesterday. He was bowhunting in a tree stand and had a large doe show up. Does being legal he took a shot and made a good hit. The doe ran less than 200 feet and collapsed where he could easily see it. He was going to give it 30 minutes to make sure it died so he stayed in his stand. In just a few minutes a small buck(a 6 pointer is what I thought he said) showed up trailing the doe. It followed the does trail to where it fell. The odd thing is the buck started tearing up the ground around the fallen doe and kicking the dirt over it. He said he just sit and watched it for about an hour. He finally tried to call it to him but it wandered off out of range. Upon going to where the doe fell he saw the buck had cleared an area the length of the doe and two feet out past the sides of it. It had partially covered the does head and was trying to cover the rest of the doe. This is the weirdest thing I have ever heard of a deer doing. Has anyone had any experiences similar to this? Does anyone have any idea why it would behave like this?

Art Eatman
November 1, 2000, 11:30 PM
New to me. Interesting!


November 2, 2000, 01:48 PM
Man if Art doesn't know....then this must be very unusual.

"Lead, follow or get the HELL out of the way."

November 3, 2000, 05:24 PM
I once found a dead cow that had been 2/3 buried - lot's of cow prints all around. It was kind of tucked back in the center of a small oak grove, kind of errie.

November 5, 2000, 02:07 PM
do whaaat? I ain't no spring chicken, but I ain't never heard of anything like this.

November 7, 2000, 02:45 AM
Wow! That is really strange. The only thing I can think of was that the response of the buck was an innate attempt to conceal the dead deer, possibly as way to keep from attracting predators into the area. I've often used freshly-dug forest litter as a make-shift scent mask when the wind suddenly turns, its pretty smelly stuff. Just a theory FWIW.


November 9, 2000, 12:02 PM
I'm going to take a stab at this, based
upon what I've learned about animal
behavior from my hunting partner who also
happens to be a professor of biology.

Upon reading the post, my initial thought
was the buck was trying to cover the doe's
carcass. Since I've been taught that animals
don't have a concept of life or death,
could it be the buck was trying to get the
doe's attention? To get it the rise and stop
its "disturbing" behavior?

November 9, 2000, 03:15 PM
Hmmm, interesting! I think that some animals do know what death is. Elephants are facinated with tusks and bones of dead elephants. They pick up the parts, carry them around and fondle them. Granted, elephants are pretty intellegent critters. Herd animals know that once a predator has taken down one of its members, its relatively safe to relax and resume feeding.

If you look at it from a fitness perspective, how could burying your dead herd member improve your ability to survive to pass on your genes? Burying a potential mate isn't a good way to spread your juju (if I remember correctly from my single days :D). Sheer speculation.

November 9, 2000, 05:13 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Sport:
I'm going to take a stab at this, based
upon what I've learned about animal
behavior from my hunting partner who also
happens to be a professor of biology.

Upon reading the post, my initial thought
was the buck was trying to cover the doe's
carcass. Since I've been taught that animals
don't have a concept of life or death,
could it be the buck was trying to get the
doe's attention? To get it the rise and stop
its "disturbing" behavior?


not to throw a kink into what sport said here, or to say anything bad towards sport, but its bull -CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED- that animals have no concept of life and death, having lived on a ranch for 15 years, my entire life, i have seen more thn enough to make me kow that animals have a concept of life and death.
its the common thing in scientific circles to sayt hat they dont and that animals are less than us and stupid .etc .etc but those people have never spent a prolonged amount of time actually around animals, everyday for years, and they dont knwo what they are talking about frankly.
animals have a concept of life and death, i cant tell you exactly what i have sene that makes me sure of this because it would fill up to much bandwitdth on this server.
just think of this, humans are animals, we have a concept of life and death.
yes other animals concept will be different from our own, but they still have the concept.

on the topic, thats strange behavior indeed, have no idea what it means but i like some of what people in here have been saying about it.

[This message has been edited by guerilla1138 (edited November 09, 2000).]

November 9, 2000, 08:42 PM
I am humbled.

Guerilla 1138's cogent post has me
convinced. I'll relay the information
to the professor.

Jeesh. Lighten up young man. Like everyone
else, I was only speculating.

November 9, 2000, 10:04 PM
Yeah, animals know about death. Last year I shot a coyote, and there was another one just kinda standing there, aways off like "jeeze, why'd ya go and do that?"....
So my brother shot him :)

I also saw this show about theese troops of small monkeys, and they're really human like. They fight wars with other monkey clans for feeding grounds, and fight for owner ship of the clan...well the old leader got killed by a younger one, and a few days later the troop was passing back through the area, and a couple of them sat down by their old leader for a while, and swatted and keptthe flies off of him. I don't think they believe in an afterlife, or what not, but I do think they know the difference between life and death. Kinda like a magpie will feed on a roadkill rattler, but never a live one :)

November 10, 2000, 01:16 PM
I do love a mystery and a challenge.

Since my last post I've spoken to three
professors who study animal behavior for a
living. I've shared the original post and responses with them.

All three support my hypothesis and my premise. Animals-even those with
high levels of intelligence- DO NOT have
a concept of life or death; certainly not as
humans view it. They all warned of our tendency to anthropomorphize (make human) their behavior. That, by the way, is what PETA and Disney have done to the detriment of

They all agree that animals function on a
largely programmed basis. That is not to
imply they cannot learn. They can and do.

But they TEND to act upon instinct, coupled
with learned behavior.
Reason would tell one that the
buck was not burying the dead doe since that is
human based ritualistic behavior. Rather,
the buck "sensed" something was wrong. The
doe's behavior was not (and here I want to be careful) "normal". The buck was, as I
speculated earlier, merely trying to encourage the doe to return to its normal
behavior..call it "herd" or "group" behavior.
After a period of time, the buck returned to
its routine; feeling no grief nor emotional

Can one relate anecdotes about animal behavior which would ,seemingly, give them
human traits? Certainly! The "Gorillas in the Mist" type of scenario where mamma gorilla
holds her dead baby to her breast, seemingly
grieving, would be an example. If one watches what mamma gorilla does thirty minutes later however,
one finds her behaving like a gorilla.

I specifically asked the professors about
learned behavior. They all agreed that animals
do learn to avoid pain. They learn what can
hurt them. Remember, survival is one of the
most basic of instincts. But avoidance behavior does NOT imply they have a concept
of death.
Let me make a human comparison. Between ages
birth and about five, humans have no concept
of death. Humans do have an instinct for
survival. By-in-large animal intelligence is
similar. It is based upon need and
certain learned behavior. It is NOT based
upon higher cognative thinking.

I have gone to the effort to reasearch, and taken the time to share, this because the
subject is facinating. I would like to see
the thread continue,

My purpose for posting is more for my own education than to get into a flaming contest about who spends more
time outdoors or who has watched the latest
"Animal Planet" tripe.

I have, as have many of you, dedicated a sig-
nificant portion of my adult life to learning about animals
and their behavior. I am eager to continue
my education.

Hope this post isn't too long.

It is an interesting topic.


[This message has been edited by Sport (edited November 10, 2000).]

Art Eatman
November 10, 2000, 11:33 PM
Thanks, Sport. I hadn't put it into those terms, but it fits the behavior pattern. I've seen that sort of behavior more with cattle and dogs/cats than with wildlife, but it sounds essentially the same.


November 11, 2000, 07:15 PM
I would guess the buck may have been curious, or trying to "wake" the doe.

When I'd asked my Grandpa about the cow that I found, he said the buried it to keep predators away. It was calving season, and we also found 2 calves dead, one still born and the other with the umbilical cord around it's neck. Coyotes were having a field day, except the 6 that ended up hanging from the fence.

As for Dogs, I've seen 'em do some real weird stuff. I've seen them quit eating and go into severe states of depression (or whatever) after a mate or owner dies. I have two dogs now that cannot be separated, or the lab goes in to a state of near panic.