Most people, when asked, would probably answer the question, “Do deer attack humans?” with a resounding ‘no’. However, there are plenty of people who are quite frightened of any four-legged animal, especially ones who are known for jumping out into the street and colliding with cars, like deer. Deer also have quite a serious stare, which can be uncomfortable for many.
Here we will tell you all about the reasons some deer are aggressive, what you can do to avoid them when they are in this stage, and whether or not you truly need to worry about protection.
When Deer Attack
In nature, deer are generally docile and gentle creatures who are quite calm unless they are rutting and competing for mates or attacking predators. In these situations, if a human gets in the way, deer are known for causing more deaths than sharks.
Each year, about 120 people are fatally injured by deer, and this is on top of other serious injuries that occur outside of death.
Deer are seen by people in many different ways. Some regard them with a spiritual sense, believing that they represent good luck, spiritual messages, or emotional connections. Others see them as playful, graceful, and joyous.
The truth is, however, that deer and human contact is not very common in nature, but when deer feel threatened in their own habitat, they will exhibit aggressive behavior.
Many of these deaths, however, are not necessarily from attacks but from vehicular accidents caused by deer jumping in front of cars, which usually happens when rutting deer cross roads looking for mates and they don’t think twice about where they’re going.
Although deer are wild animals, they often come into residential areas searching for food in lawns and gardens. This means that attacks often happen from deer toward people or their domestic pets, and people need to know what to do when an aggressive deer comes into their space.
This proximity to civilized homes is not the fault of the deer, though. People have encroached upon their habitat and then expect deer to be okay with that fact. However, when deer attack humans, it is often provoked by the humans and not by the wild deer.
This closeness to humans also makes wild deer less fearful of humans, so they are not as likely to think of humans as predators and automatically run away from them. Instead, they might see them as competition for space, food, and bedding areas or as a threat to their fawns or family herds.
It makes sense that deer don’t trust humans, as humans are predators for their species. Deer have a natural fear of humans, but since humans have come so close into their territory with neighborhoods and businesses, oftentimes, they attack without warning.
Naturally, deer will flee when predators attack, but if a deer is no longer afraid and a threatening human is in striking distance, an aggressive deer will rise up and use its antlers and front legs to protect itself as well as protect the herd.
Related: Why Do Deer Sleep in My Yard?
How to Tell When a Deer Feels Threatened
When a deer sees a potential predator, it will exhibit myriad body language signs that can tell you it is on high alert, which might mean it will attack if the threat progresses.
One of the first signs is staring, which is often accompanied by head bobbing. This head bobbing happens because deer don’t actually have very good eyesight, but they are highly attuned to movement and the head bobbing helps them see if anything is moving in their area.
Then, they will start hard in one direction, allowing their nose to pick up on scents wafting toward them.
Their ears will also move back and forth, which is called a “radar sweep.” This allows them to hear from the front and behind. Ear posture is very important to understanding if a deer is relaxed or feels under attack.
A threatened deer will then stomp its hooves to warn others in the herd that there is a potential threat in the area. Many will fluff out their tail feathers and rump fur to show the rest of the group that it may be time to flee.
How to Avoid or Prevent Attacks by Wild Deer
The best way to keep from getting attacked by wild animals is to prevent the initial dangerous situation. If there are deer present in an area, don’t encroach on their space. Instead, give them a wide berth and go your own way.
Staying Away in the First Place
A deer doesn’t need you to feed it. It is a wild animal that keeps itself alive and well in nature all the time and will be just fine without your intervention.
You never know if the cute little animal who you think of as simple and sweet like Bambi might be one of a group of rutting bucks looking for a doe or a female deer looking to protect her fawns.
Tame deer that are in either of these states will change into aggressive deer in an instant. Wild animals in these situations become quite territorial aggressive and will attack humans without warning.
However, if you run away, a deer attack is a lot less likely to happen. If they chase after you, you can always suddenly rise up to full height, wave your arms in the air, and shout as loud as you can.
Keeping Your Yard Safe
You might wonder, “Do deer attack humans in their own homes?” Unfortunately, the answer is sometimes yes.
Many people think of building a deer fence to keep out many species, including mule deer and whitetail deer.
You don’t have to have an eyesore around your yard, though. There are also wireless options that can keep deer from looking for food in your area.
Related: Are Deer Dangerous to Dogs?
What to Do if a Deer Attacks
Oftentimes, no matter what you do, an aggressive deer will attack humans. This might be because it is a rutting buck or a mother deer in or after mating season, or it might be one of a group of cornered animals who feel threatened.
How to Protect Yourself
If this happens, protect your head and face, as well as your vital organs by crouching down on the ground and getting into the fetal position. The aggressive deer will lose interest and eventually, you can make a safe retreat. If available, you can also climb trees nearby or scramble on top of a boulder.
Alternatively, you could grab onto the front hooves or antlers and get the deer onto the ground. Doe do not have antlers, so grabbing onto a female’s front hooves to bring it down to the ground would be your best bet if she is attacking you.
Attacks by Moose
You might not realize it, but moose are in the same family as deer. Moose also attack humans regularly, especially in North America, where humans share the territory in close quarters.
Moose might seem to be large animals that just plod along, but they are quite dangerous. Some can weigh in at over 1,500 pounds. Moose also attack humans.
Unlike other animals, moose are easily provoked. They are even more dangerous during rutting season. You might not hear about moose attacks often if you don’t live in an area near them.
Moose attacks are extremely rare, but still, the truth is that moose kill about two humans every year.
If a deer attacks, the most important thing is not to panic. You and your camping or hiking buddies can climb trees if they are near, and the deer will often lose interest and retreat. You could also search for a large rock, tree stump, or sign close to the ground to use as a shield.
Deer are incredibly strong wild animals, and if a deer approaches you with aggression in mind and you don’t escape or protect yourself, you will be at risk of serious injury.
They can use their antlers or front hooves to hurt your torso, limbs, face, or head; many of these could cause permanent damage if they are not fatal.
Although, in general, deer are gentle animals, unnatural relationships such as people feeding them or moving into their territory can cause aggressive behavior that you want to avoid at all costs.
If attacked, you can either run away, make yourself large and shout, or grab the deer by the front legs or antlers (if available). If this doesn’t work, you can get on the ground and protect yourself as best you can, wrapping your arms and legs around your most important parts.
The best way to prevent a deer attack, though, is to enjoy them from afar, respecting their space and habitat because, after all, it belonged to them first.
Although deer attack when they feel threatened or when they sense danger, if you take these precautions, you hopefully won’t ever have to answer the question, “Do deer attack humans?” with a real-life anecdote.