Does a deer eat a coyote

In the photo trap: deer eats people and is photographed in the process

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To find out which animals gnaw at human bones, researchers lay in wait. They were surprised by a herbivore.

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Herbivores are less consistent in avoiding meat than human vegetarians. This applies to almost all mammal species, from deer to squirrels to panda bears: if they have the opportunity to get hold of a piece of meat, they grab it.

Even so, forensic scientists from Texas State University were surprised when they evaluated images from a photo trap. Because they showed a deer gleefully chewing on the bones of a person (see photo series).

Facilitate the work of forensic scientists

The remains had been donated for forensic purposes and deposited in a wooded area belonging to the Forensic Anthropology Research Facility in San Marcos. They should help document the decay of a human corpse.

Lauren A. Meckel's team also wanted to investigate the role of scavenging animals. The idea behind it: find out which tracks are left by which animals. This knowledge should help in the future to determine a period of death and to identify corpses.

Everything for nutrient absorption

But the researchers' photo traps not only photographed the expected scavengers such as foxes, raccoons, coyotes and turkey vultures, but also a surprising eater: a white-tailed deer, which is closely related to the deer native to this country.

Although this is actually a herbivore, it was trapped with a human bone in its mouth. According to Meckel, this is the first documented case of a deer nibbling on human bones.

From the point of view of the animals, however, the exception is not absurd, as the researchers report in the “Journal of Forensic Sciences”: In this way, the deer could absorb important minerals that their plant-based diet hardly contains.