Ask The Biologist

There Will Be Blood Tonight!

There Will Be Blood Tonight!

By Bob Humphrey

What is the cause of light blood sign where deer congregate?

QUESTION: For many years now I have noticed blood where deer have concentrated heavily and remained in one spot for long periods of time to feed in winter months. I only notice this when there is snow on the ground, probably because it stands out so much then. I am sure it is from a deer.

The blood does not look to be from a wound. It’s not like drops of blood  you would expect from a wound. Is this a menstrual occurrence from doe or another possible explanation? – Anonymous in Ohio

ANSWER: I, too, have witnessed this on occasion, and while it’s difficult to be certain, I can certainly offer several possibilities. One is, as you suggested, related to the estrus cycle. If a doe is not bred during the first rut, it will typically cycle again approximately 28 days later. It’s also not unusual for doe fawns to cycle in their first fall, and this often occurs during the second rut.

Another possibility that I think is more likely, at least in the cases I have witnessed, is that the snow not only makes the blood more visible, but could well be the cause for the bleeding. As snow thaws and freezes over time it turns into ice crystals that can be sharp, causing tiny scrapes and cuts on a deer’s legs and feet. Many dog owners have probably observed the same thing. It typically doesn’t cause much harm but can result in bleeding.

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