How Does a Deer Defend Itself?

There are three main ways a deer defends itself from predators: scent, hooves and antlers. Deer are commonly mistaken as defenseless creatures because of their natural grace, calm demeanor and outward appearance. Hunters prize these creatures. The hide, meat and antlers of adult bucks make deer worthy of the hunt. One on one, without a weapon, a deer will win in a fight, especially a full grown buck that feels threatened. Fight or flight are the options for most deer when a predator attacks or threatens them. Often the flight option is chosen as a natural instinct. A deer can run up to 40 miles an hour.

Deer Defend Themselves

Hooves, Antlers and Scent

The first protective instinct of a deer is to mark its territory. This is used to deter predators as well as other bucks, unless it is mating season. Bucks have antlers with velvet hairs covering the bony protrusions. This is rubbed onto trees which marks off the territory lines as well as releases a distinct musk into the air. The scent is used as a warning to other animals of its presence as well as a beacon during mating season. Scent offers a little protection but it can also attract harm. Antlers appear on almost all deer male (buck) and female (doe). Does lose their antlers as they get older and they often only amount to short stubs. Bucks however can grow antlers that will be up to 3 feet across. Hunters prize their bucks by determining how many points the antlers have. An 8 point buck has a very large antler spread. These antlers are used as a means of defense and offense during mating season and for play at other times. Aggressive bucks will rush at another buck during mating season. The antlers will lock as the two deer push at each other. The attacking buck will try to bring the other buck into a submissive position. Sometimes this method of attacking and defense is dangerous for the deer. If they get caught together and cannot get out, they are likely to die from hunger. This often only rarely happens. This display is mostly apparent when a doe is nearby. Bucks will use their antlers also to defend themselves against other predators if they do not run first. The antlers act as an attached weapon. Along with sweeping at the attacker with its antlers, the deer, who has hard hooves, will raise up on its hind quarters and hit with its front hooves. They will also kick from behind just like a horse would if approached that way. A horse and deer are similar in bodily shape, especially the legs.

Other Defense Methods

During the winter, deer will travel in herds. Moving as a group keeps them safer from predators. It is instinct that tells them there is safety in numbers. Female deer, or does, will defend their fawn or offspring by hiding them in brush while they go to get food. The fawn will stay hidden until the mother doe returns on some occasions up to 4 hours at a time. She will chase off these offspring after a year just before she will mate again and have a new litter. This is to protect the new offspring. If a deer feels threatened, it will run first, but then it will get aggressive with its natural body as a defense system.

Linda St.Cyr

Linda St.Cyr is a published author and freelance Web writer. Samples of her work can be found at Demand Media, Examiner, Associated Content and Helium. Her short stories will be appearing in anthology collections including Elements of Time, Relationships: Good, Bad and Funny, and a Halloween anthology collection.