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Do Deer Attack Humans? (Why They Might)

Do Deer Attack Humans? (Why They Might)

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Deer are a symbol of beauty and grace. They’re enchanting creatures that are gentle. However, there’s more to deer than meets the eye. 

Those seemingly harmless creatures can actually turn into a threat. That’s especially true when sensing danger. Even when left unprovoked, bucks can stomp you, causing serious injuries like brain damage. And, in some cases, they might stomp someone to death!

This begs the question, why do deer attack humans? 

That’s what we’re here to discuss. From triggers to survival tactics, I’m here to cover everything you need to know about deer attacks, from their reasons to how you can avoid them. 

Do Deer Attack Humans?

Yes, they do. As surprising as this might sound, deer attacks are more common than you think. 

What’s even more surprising is that these animals are, in fact, the deadliest in the US. They’re responsible for around 120 casualties annually. That’s more than sharks!

Car accidents are typically the ones to blame for these statistics. Still, deer attacks occur when people are out in nature.

Why Do Deers Attack Humans?

Generally, deer are docile, shy animals that rarely approach humans. Since these animals are a favorite of many predators, they like to hide to survive in nature. 

That being said, deer can be more aggressive than usual. That’s especially true during breeding season. For instance, rutting bucks can easily become agitated and attack people. 

For those wondering, rutting refers to the period when bucks are looking for mates. Typically, male deer are calm. However, when it comes to mating season, they become loose cannons.

This has to do with biology. 

You see, during this phase, bucks experience increased testosterone. Naturally, this fills them with lust and rage. That helps them prepare for breeding competition.

A rutting buck can spend all day looking for does (female deer) to mate with. They can even chase a doe for days until they’re ready to breed.

For hunters, this season is full of opportunities. That’s because the animals aren’t as careful as they should be. So, it’s much easier to track them. 

However, when provoked, a deer can attack you if you’re not careful. You should avoid this encounter at all costs since these animals are strong enough to destroy saplings.

I’ve even heard stories of bucks chasing people down, going the extra mile and swimming across lakes to attack humans!

Other Reasons Deer Might Attack Humans

Rutting isn’t the only cause of deer attacks. Other circumstances can also make these animals aggressive. These include self-defense, maternal protection, and territorial disputes.

1. Self-Defense Instinct

Like most prey animals, deer inherently have a fight-or-flight response. Most likely, the animal will run if you’re threatening them. After all, these beautiful creatures are fast; they can reach up to 50 miles per hour, depending on the species.

When cornered, deer will attack humans to protect themselves. After all, what other way will help them get out of the situation?

2. Maternal Protection

Regardless of the species, mothers are highly protective of their babies. If you go near a fawn, don’t be surprised when the doe rushes to attack you. This aggression comes naturally to the mothers to ensure the survival of their young ones.

Keeping a good distance from wild animals is essential to ensuring your safety. Of course, that’s as long as you’re not dealing with a rutting deer. These animals will chase you regardless of your distance!

3. Territorial Disputes

Generally, deer aren’t territorial. They don’t get worked up when intruders invade their homes. However, that’s not the case with baby mamas. 

Pregnant does become highly defensive. They create cozy birthing areas, usually around 20 acres, and safeguard them against outsiders. This situation lasts for around a month.

Likewise, rutting bucks become territorial during breeding seasons. As a mating strategy, they mark areas to establish dominance and attract females. 

Invading those spaces comes with hefty consequences. The males will perceive you as a rival and may start sparring with you—a situation you should definitely avoid!

How to Avoid Deer Attacks

While interacting with deer offers a fairytale-like experience, it’s important to be mindful to ensure your safety. Here are a few tips to help you avoid deer attacks:

1. Stay Away From Deer During Rutting Season

Stay Away From Rutting Deer To Avoid Getting Attacked

As I mentioned, you should avoid rutting bucks at all costs during the breeding season. These animals are pumped up with testosterone and won’t hesitate to attack you.

For that reason, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Avoid contacting these animals during mating. That’s especially true if you live in rural areas, as deer are prevalent there.

Generally, rutting season occurs in the fall, from late October to November. In some places, like natural parks, breeding can extend to December.

Either way, you should be careful, starting in September. Here are some tips to help you avoid attracting these animals:

  • Keep your dogs on a leash, and don’t allow them to roam free.
  • During walks, look out for antlers. If you spot them, try to stay at least 55 yards away from the deer.
  • Go to an area far away from the buck and retreat indoors.
  • Don’t leave food outside to avoid attracting wildlife.
  • Never let your pet chase bucks.

2. Stay Away From Fawns

Stay Away From Fawns To Avoid Deer Attacking Humans

Staying away from fawns is another survival tactic to prevent deer attacks. 

Sure, it can be challenging to avoid petting a deer. Still, approaching those cute babies can get you in trouble real quick. 

But how can you spot those little animals? Here are a few tips to help keep your distance from baby deer:

  • Avoid wandering around from dusk until dawn since deer are crepuscular animals.
  • Look out for angry squirrel barks or blue jay sounds, as this indicates an approaching deer.
  • Watch out for nearby animals if you hear rustling leaves.
  • Use binoculars for close-up viewing and to remain inconspicuous.
  • Assume that a mother deer is nearby whenever you see a fawn alone.
  • Look for triangular-shaped tracks. This is typically a sign of nearby fawns.
  • Watch for pebble-like scat or poop.
  • Stay away from oval-shaped holes (beds) in the ground.
  • Inspect trees for any rub signs. Deer rubbing typically shreds a large portion of the bark instead of leaving a neat mark.

How to Survive a Deer Attack

Even when you try your best to avoid a deer, you may end up facing a buck. Knowing how to respond is crucial for your safety. 

Here are a few strategies to survive a deer attack:

1. Stay Calm

Surviving a deer attack will involve keeping your cool and making good decisions. 

While they may not smell fear like dogs, deer can tell when you’re afraid. They can sense if you’re nervous or excited from your body posture and rapid movements. 

This confuses the animal, and as a result, they may sense danger and strike you. 

2. Be Observant

Just because a deer spots you doesn’t mean it will attack you. The deer could just be roaming around. In that case, it might allow you to leave without chasing you. 

Still, it’s best to understand the animal’s body language to know if you’re in danger. Typically, an aggressive deer will show the following signs:

  • Tucked tail against the rump
  • Raised head above the shoulders or held flat
  • Dropped ears combined with a stern look
  • Raised nose to determine where the scent is coming from
  • Laser-focused eyes on the target
  • Parallel walking with frequent glancing

3. Back Away Slowly

If you notice aggression signs from a buck, the best thing you can do is back away slowly until you leave its territory.

In the case of chasing, get behind a large rock or other barriers to prevent the deer from catching up with you. Make sure to face the animal as you back off. You can also climb a tree to get out of reach. 

4. Intimidation Tactics

You can also intimidate the deer to get it to leave you alone. Face the animal and spread your arms to appear large. Shout and make loud noises. This could make the deer back down and run away.

However, don’t attempt this tactic with a rutting buck. It might charge toward you and strike you with its antlers. 

5. Consider Self-Defense

As a last resort, fighting back is your best option to survive. 

Start by swinging large branches to scare the buck. If the attack continues, grab the antlers to wrestle the animal to the ground. This helps tire the deer out. 

If necessary, use a knife for self-defense.

Hopefully, you’ll never have to be put in a situation like this in the first place. It’s crucial to prioritize escaping over confrontation.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, despite their docile nature, deer can attack humans. Generally, rutting bucks are dangerous. These animals are pumped with testosterone and won’t hesitate to fight.

Likewise, pregnant does are highly defensive, and they may stomp on you to protect their babies. 

In the case of an attack, staying calm, backing away slowly, using intimidation tactics, and employing self-defense increase your survival chances.

However, prevention is the best cure. On that note, it’s best to respect wildlife and avoid confrontation during breeding season. That way, you prioritize your safety and ensure your deer encounters remain delightful!


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