Deer are incredibly gregarious creatures that travel in herds. They travel together to search for food and security. However, certain types of deer, such as moose, do not travel in herds.
A dominant female frequently leads the herd. However, in certain cases, herds are divided by gender.
Deer mostly form herds to care for and protect their offspring. The herd may only separate when they are rutting. Deer rutting season is the period between the middle of October to early December when they mate.
How Do Deer Form Herds?
Deer herds are often divided into male and female herds. The does and fawns herd together, and the bucks form small herds.
There is no way to determine the precise number of deer in a herd since they continuously move throughout a given region.
Male offspring stay with the mother herd for a year before joining a male herd.
These buck herds continually change because they develop dominance hierarchies, with the strongest male at the moment being the herd’s leader. The dominant males get to determine territory and breeding rights.
In most cases buck herds only recruit individuals of their gender since they share comparable qualities and behaviors.
Bucks are also territorial, and the more there are, the more likely there will be a dispute. Therefore, groups of male deer herds are mainly small groups of young males.
Every bachelor herd must have at least one older deer from whom the other young might learn to imitate and learn new antics.
Apart from buck herds, almost all other deer herds are matriarchal. The alpha doe leads the herd and warns the others of impending danger by snorting loudly or stamping her front paw.
She decides where they will dwell and where they will give birth. The alpha doe is the first to mate with the buck. She will leave the group to give birth when the time comes.
The alpha doe teaches young deer survival skills, such as locating water and food and seeking cover during danger.
At all times, the alpha doe will keep an ear out for oncoming does. If she hears, smells, or sees another doe approaching, she will strike to demonstrate her supremacy.
She is also in charge of removing juvenile bucks from the herd once they reach the age of one year.
When a predator scatters the herd, herd members can follow the smell of the alpha doe to a safer spot.
Lastly, the size of the herd varies depending on the kind of deer. However, in general, a deer’s environment and food supply will play a big part in deciding the size of any herd of deer.
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Why Do Deer Travel In Herds?
Traveling in herds benefits deer in different ways. Mule deer, for example, migrate vast distances and must travel in herds for safety. Grouping together is essential protection against predators.
For example, a deer eating with its head down is vulnerable to leopard stalking, but a herd has numerous eyes for lookout duty.
If one of the herd members sees danger, they will inform the rest of the herd through vocalizations or behavioral changes. The herd may then establish protective formations. Hence, catching a single deer is considerably more complicated when they are a dozen of them.
Deer will travel together in the winter and collectively follow the same well-worn pathways to combat the low temperatures. In some instances, there may be more than two herds coexisting as a single entity.
Young male deer will occasionally seek out the companionship of others. These young and inexperienced bucks have a higher chance of finding food and shelter by sticking together. Therefore, deer can travel in herds searching for green pasture and shelter.
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Why Do Deer Herds Break?
As the mating season approaches, the herds break as each seeks a mate to copulate with. A buck becomes territorial and will not tolerate the presence of another male.
Therefore, young bulls have a tough time finding worthy females, and if they do, they are challenged by stronger bulls who easily win the battle. In most cases, these young males (about 1 year) are forcibly chased away.
In fall, fawns avoid socializing with their sexually mature male offspring. These mother-son confrontations usually force the males to be docile or get out of the herd entirely.
Increased hunting pressure from the predators can also cause deer herds to split. For example, if the coyote population grows, it will be hard for the deer to stick together.
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How Often Do Deer Travel In Herds?
Traveling often happens after the sun sets till the sun rises. The herd prefers to go on walks when calm and not windy. When the wind is blowing, it is hard to monitor the predators’ scent and hear where the movement originates.
Deer like to travel in the dark and dim light of dawn and dusk. The herd begins their first excursion of the day in the early mornings, as early as 4 a.m., searching for food and water. Deer have excellent night vision thanks to their sensitive retina, which they exploit to keep themselves safe from hunters and other predators.
During the day, the herd rest in their sleeping area. However, this varies according to the age group of the deer. At twilight, generally between 4 and 10 p.m., depending on the time of year and food shortage, they undertake their second trek in search of food.
They will travel less if their environment provides all of their needs. If an area offers all of the deer’s needs, they may be limited to 200 to 300 acres. The home range may extend during the rut.
While most deer species herd together, we cannot conclude that all are sociable. Some, like moose, congregate frequently return to a lonely existence. Others, such as mule deer and white-tailed deer, are more sociable.
Bucks have their method of becoming a member of a herd. At around 16 weeks, the mother doe will throw their buck out to create his new herd. They’ll meet up with other bucks and learn the ins and outs of the game. Bucks can start their herd or struggle to seize the command of another.
Deer mainly form herds for security. There are more eyes to look out for danger when there are in a group.
Joe is a freelance writer for FaunaFacts. Joe has written extensively about snakes for the site, but also contributes content about a range of animals.