It isn’t just scent that causes deer to “blow.”
QUESTION: I had a deer blow at me last year, and I know she wasn’t smelling me. The wind was wrong, plus she was clear across the field. I thought deer only blew if they smelled danger. Is that true?– Mike C.
ANSWER: While we don’t know whether it’s a deliberate action or an instinctive reaction, deer sometimes blow when they encounter a perceived or potential threat. It offers no benefit to the deer doing it, but deer are social animals and it serves as a warning to other deer.
That reaction can, and often is, the result of deer smelling humans or some other foreign odor. However, they may also blow when they see but don’t smell a threat. In fact, it may be more common since they’re more likely to simply flee when the threat is identified.
Blowing and foot-stomping also may be a signal to a potential predator that the deer is aware of their presence and the jig is up, or to startle them into revealing themselves.— Recent Ask the Biologist Question:
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