If you get a funny feeling when you make eye contact with a deer, you’re not alone.
QUESTION: Do you think that face paint really helps to keep deer from seeing your shiny face, or do they get spooked when they see your shiny eyes?
ANSWER: I love this question! The short answer is: I really don’t know, and it’s never as simple as we would like.
Over eons, deer have developed an adaptation to recognize predators by certain cues, like the upright form of a human, and possibly our round, white face. It’s basically the same innate response as chicks recognizing the shape of a predatory bird that we all learn about in grade school.
They certainly recognize humans as predators, or a source of potential danger, but we don’t know if it’s the face, the eyes or perhaps both. Predators in general, tend to have flatter faces and forward facing eyes, and it’s not unreasonable to presume a prey animal would recognize this configuration as danger.
I don’t know about just the eyes, but there’s enough conjecture out there to give one pause. We’ve all felt that indescribable sensation when me make eye contact with another person, or an animal. And while I am aware of no scientific evidence to support the notion, I try not to make eye contact with a deer while hunting.
As for face paint, it certainly can’t hurt. Anything that breaks up the general shape of the human face is effective, but you don’t need the Gene Simmons starter kit and all those fancy make-up designs. — Recent Ask the Biologist Question:
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