Forensic scientists at the Forensic Anthropology Research Facility (FARF) in San Marcos, Texas decided to do an experiment by placing a human corpse in the woods to get a better idea about how a body decomposes and which animals would scavenge the carcass. They expected to see foxes, turkey vultures, raccoons and coyotes. But it was what the didn’t expect that drove them nuts. The camera showed a white tail deer gnawing at the human bones. They say this has never been seen before even though deer have been seen eating other things besides vegetation, such as fish, bats and even dead rabbits.
According to their findings published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, this is the first known evidence of a deer scavenging human bones.
Although it’s not the first time deer have dined outside their usual vegetarian diet, this is definitely the first time anyone has proof that they actually tamper with human remains. Deer have been seen eating fish, bats and even dead rabbits.
Popular Science reports that deer and other herbivores may occasionally consume flesh to get minerals that may not be readily available to them in the wintertime.
The discovery will help forensic scientists in future investigations that involve corpses that have been tampered with by scavengers. Now they can add deer dining to the list.
The study explains that, unlike carnivores, deer seek out dry bones of long-deceased animals. They cause the most damage to the ends of the bone, making zigzag motions with their jaws that leave a “stripped, forked pattern in the bone.”
Knowing that these marks come from deer teeth could help to solve a particularly mangled crime scene. Don’t worry though, as long as they’re well fed, the deer you meet at a petting zoo won’t chomp off a finger.