Forensic scientists caught a deer munching on a human carcass for the first time ever
It’s gruesome, but could help investigations
By Sarah Fecht
May 5, 2017
Warning: the photos at site may be disturbing for some people.
In July 2014, researchers left a body in a wooded part of FARF. They wanted to learn about how different scavengers leave their marks on human remains, so they set up a motion-sensitive camera to see who would stop by. In this part of Texas, it's not unusual to see foxes, turkey vultures, raccoons, coyotes, and other carrion-gobblers picking at a corpse. But after a few months, someone new came to the table.
On January 5, 2015, the camera caught a glimpse of a young white-tailed deer standing near the skeleton with a human rib bone in its mouth. Then it happened again on January 13—the camera caught a deer with another rib sticking out of its mouth like a cigar. It’s not clear whether it was the same deer in both cases, but it's certainly possible first one came back for seconds.
It is not, however, the first time we've seen deer violating their vegetarian diets. In fact, they're known to have a taste for blood. Previously they've been spotted eating fish, bats, and dead rabbits. Scientists think deer and other herbivores may occasionally seek out flesh to get minerals—such as phosphorus, salt, and calcium—that may be missing from their regular diets, especially in wintertime.
Although it’s likely rare for deer to munch on human remains, being able to recognize the signs of ungulate gnawing may help investigators pinpoint where a body came from and how long it’s been dead—which could help turn a mysteriously mangled crime scene into a solved case.