It’s a deer eat deer world, according to Virginia hunter Cody Altizer, who witnessed a bizarre scene earlier this week. He reported seeing a whitetail doe consuming what appeared to be the remains of a deceased deer.
“I was on a sunrise drive enjoying the morning and hoping to catch a newborn fawn up on its feet, or a buck well on his way to an impressive set of antlers,” writes Altizer in a Facebook post. “I drove by a field of freshly cut hay well before sunup and noticed a doe with her head down feeding. It was dark and foggy, so I drove past not giving it a second thought.”
Altizer’s morning soon took a turn toward the macabre. During a second pass by the same plot, he discovered something “peculiar.” The doe was in the same exact spot. Altizer went in for a closer look, thinking the doe might be protectively standing over a newborn fawn, but the reality was far stranger.
“She lifted her head, and plain as day, I could see in her mouth the mangled carcass of a dead fawn,” he says. “I watched for several minutes as she licked, chewed, and consumed part of the carcass.”
Biologist: Deer Do “Eat Some Pretty Weird Stuff”
Though deer are primarily herbivores, they’re known to be opportunistic feeders. Over the years, deer have been spotted eating yellow perch, doves, squirrels, rabbits, and even, the remains of a dead man in Texas. Still, it rare to see them eating meat, let alone other deer.
“You think of these animals as grazers or browsers, but they occasionally eat some pretty weird stuff,” retired Wyoming Game and Fish biologist Reg Rothwell told OutdoorHub.
“It’s most likely that the fawn was hit by the mower, or perhaps killed by a predator,” Altizer speculates. “Some biologists might consider this to be some form of cannibalism. Others might simply view it as the doe taking advantage of protein source, not unlike a buck eating his velvet.”
Altizer’s post stirred up quite a bit of controversy on social media, with some Facebook users opining that the deer was eating a placenta, not a carcass. “Although it appears to be a fawn, it isn’t,” writes Facebook commenter Chase Vance. “She is eating the afterbirth to keep predators away. A lot of cows do the same.”
“Well, that afterbirth sure does have a lot of fur,” responds Stacey Miller.
Altizer is undeterred and tells Field & Stream he’s “positive” the doe was feasting on a fawn carcass.
“If you zoom in on the photos,” he says, “you can see hide, spots on the fur, hooves, knee joints, and an eye. It was an experience I’ll never forget, and I’m just thankful I had a camera with me to document it.”