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Deer being jerks

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Oftentimes, when people think of deer their mind conjures up images of Bambi, the cute little harmless angelic creature jumping in the grass. And don't get me wrong, deer are pretty chill most of the time, but they are not models of kindness or fairness and they are being mean to one another regularly.

Deer are quite capable of aggressive behavior, both towards people and their own kind.

This is a compilation of the 'hoofed devils' being mean to each other. Pushes, bites, sneaky punches - they can do all of that.

Why are deer being jerks sometimes?

When they push, attack or bite each other it often appears to be an expression of dominance. As in, "don't forget who's the boss around here". Deer have a pecking order. Strongest and meanest eat first, youngest and weakest last. Pretty simple, eh? Far from fair from our current point of view but that's what allowed these animals to survive in nature.

For example, our oldest doe, Babushka, along with a few others, often seen browsing for leftovers when most of the herd have moved to a better spot where fresh lot of feed is beig distributed. Is that because she feels she can no longer compete with full of life youngsters? Or does she just like a bit of quiet in her senior age? Whatever the reason, we often trick them and still deliver an additional portion to where the oldie is. She's looking fine.

Deer being jerks video compilation

This compilation is about moments of seemingly unprovoked bits of hostility. Not bucks fighting - that's a totally separate matter and it is well known and expected. Here we showcase some 'micro - mini - medium' agressions taking place all year round, all part of deer life.

Luckily, deer usually don't 'hold a grudge' against fellow herd members, they bite or get bitten and move on, getting back to pecking grass, sometimes only a couple meters away from each other. They don't seem to be 'developing traumas' from being attacked, because they tend to come back close to their abusers soon after, which shows they're not too afraid. They'll often try and keep their distance from aggressive bucks after a rude attack, but will continue to sneak past and hope not to be noticed. I mean, there's a pecking order but also there seems to be an understanding that if you respect it too much you're likely going to be hungry most of the time, or at least - you'll never get any yummy stuff. So the limits keep being pushed all the time.

Is the aggression always about access to food or mating?

Nope. That's why the post is called 'being jerks'. Because deer would often be seen kicking someone off of their spot without any intention of taking their place, or coming up to someone just to push them away, gaining nothing material in return. Just maintaining dominance.

Have a look at some pictures of hostile behavior:

Junkie teaches Orange to respect pecking order (and leave all the food for her to eat):

doe bites another doe

And, from the story about deer biting, Cricket biting Whitey:

deer biting

Why do deer chase each other ?

Taking mating rituals aside, where males chase females, deer do that in other situations as well.

Fawns - naturally, play and learn helpful behaviors and moves. Their chasing and jumping up in the air appears cheerful and fun.

Then there are cases when does chase other does. It is usually an older doe going after the younger, or an even older and weaker one. We don't observe this behavior too often, but it happens.

Then there are 'spikers'. Young bucks, trying to 'prove themselves'. They will from time to time butt, follow someone in an intimidating manner forcing the victim to eventually run away or flat out chase them if they feel like it.

That's why we try to give older does some time away from those mean guys in a closed paddock, where they can eat in peace and relax.

Last modified 2022-09-04 at 20:38

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I found your article while searching for info about does correcting their fawns. I observed a doe with twins on our property the other day. One of the fawns was very active — running, jumping, at one point bumping into mama, who was grazing. The other twin was more timid, mostly hiding in the brush aligning the grassland. Mama decided to move on, the rowdy twin followed. Once they got to the tree line (about 30 ft from the bush where the other fawn was hiding), the more sedate twin came out of the brush. Mama walked over, lifted her paw, and whacked the fawn!

Have you seen such behavior before? Was Mama correcting the fawn for not following closely enough? I had looked down for a few seconds and honestly thought it was the rowdy twin she was correcting, but watching the game cam later, I discovered it was the sedate one.

I guess I am worried that the fawn timidity is because he/she isn’t well, and Mama is rejecting him/her. I know other species might do that, but do deer do it?

Hi Sheila,

I've never seen a mother doe whacking her fawn, or any fawn for that matter. Most times she walks away or bites and walks away, when she's weaning. They are more aggressive with other fawns in the herd, who might try to get a feed from them, but whacking a fawn with a hoof - never hapenned in fallow deer and very rarely been observed in red deer, hoves are usually reserved for adults fighting amongst themselves. 

If I saw a scene like you're describing, I'd think it was not her fawn or that indeed she is rejecting one of her fawns.

There have been cases of deer abandoning their weak fawns (not to be confused with does leaving their fawns for a few hours daily which is normal) and people rescuing them https://www.mirror.co.uk/incoming/gallery/watch-what-happens-deer-doe-6707256

It's heartbreaking if that's the case, but in nature the strongest survives and twins for a prey animal like deer is a huge challenge to bring up. According to this study, twins have lower survival rates than singletons.

It could be that the fawn has lost its mother (she got killed) and is now trying to get a feed from another doe. That is bound to fail though as deer do not tend to adopt anybody else's babies. :(


They have returned a few times now. The fawn in question is definitely smaller than the other one, but fortunately seems to be foraging for food now, so maybe there is hope for him/her!


I have been in contact with a rehabber in my area, and after viewing the tape she believes it is not her fawn. I am going to try to capture her and take her to the rehab. They currently have two other orphaned fawns. Wish me luck,

Good job, Sheila! Yeah, unfortunately, it didn't sound too good for the fawn, from what you've relayed. Hope you succeed in capturing her. Rehabber must've given you instructions how to go about that? I believe they recommend to use a towel to wrap the fawn in, because they may kick and they're surprisingly strong for their small size even right after birth. They also can scream pretty loud when picked up too, so don't be alarmed. Good luck!


Yes, she gave some suggestions. Also I have a cousin who has some experience in the area. She is about an hour away but said she will come over tomorrow and we will watch for them. I hope I am not too late.

I am just heartbroken over this…. I should have tried to get information sooner. I have no experience with deer or any other “wild” animal. I know dog and cat mothers will sometimes “correct” their young, so I thought maybe that was what was going on. But, it bothered me. I should have listened to my gut.

That's good that you'll have some help. I hope you're able to catch him/her.

Totally understandable, we're not born wild animal experts, and we tend to trust nature to sort itself out. True, cats for example will whack kittens with their paw, but their paw is soft, deer's hoof is quite a dangerous weapon, so they mostly correct by biting (they're missing top teeth btw). But I wouldn't have known that if I wasn't living on a deer farm, observing them daily.


I just wanted to give you an update. Sadly, I have not seen the fawn since figuring out that she needed assistance. I tell myself that her mother found her, or that a doe that had a stillborn adopted her, but…. of course, it is more likely that she is gone. Honestly, I am gutted. And angry with myself. I had a strong feeling, but I waited too long to get the relevant information. My eyes are swollen from crying for three days. I don’t know how wildlife rehabbers do it.

At least now I am prepared in case there is a fawn in distress again. I pulled out a large wire crate that had been put in storage, along with some soft blankets. They are now more easily accessible. We purchased some goat milk formula and a bottle, in case we have to keep an injured fawn overnight, until we can transport to the rehabber. And I now know the phone number and address of our local certified wildlife rehab specialist.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge and for your support. I really appreciate it.

Sorry to hear that. I also was hoping for a happy end to this story, but I knew it was easier said than done, even if they did show up, to capture a fawn. It's not your fault, it's nature...

I also can't imagine myself doing animal rehab or working in shelters, I'd be too sad all the time for all the animals that arrived injured, couldn't be saved or wouldn't get adopted. 

Just a word of caution with bottle feeding. Apparently it can be dangerous if wrong tip is chosen, as milk can go down the breathing tube and into the lungs and cause infection. You can get useful tips in this video https://youtu.be/53VznW880PI?t=279

Oh and wire crate best have a solid floor (wooden/ plastic board) or fawn's hooves might get stuck in the wire mesh.

Hope you will only see healthy happy fawns from now on but you're prepared for any emergencies now!

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