A deer’s blow and snort can mean several things. It might simply mean a deer is clearing its nostrils or has sensed danger.
Other times the snort may be directed to another deer to display dominance. Mature bucks usually produce these sounds, especially during mating season.
Deer are proficient at communicating with various sounds. Therefore, it is important to note that blows and snorts usually signify completely different things.
Why Does A Deer Blow And Snort?
There are several reasons why a deer snorts and blows.
1. To Smell Better
Most times, deer blows or snorts to clean out their nostrils to get a better whiff of the air because it has sensitive olfaction, just in case it is not sure what it has smelled.
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2. To Identify Predators
Deer also utilize their senses of sight, hearing, and smell to detect danger or something they don’t like at a distance. This could be anything that bothers them, be it smaller creatures, domestic pets, and even discomfort.
When deer can’t quite tell the threat, they make blows and curiosity snort.
The noise is in an attempt to try and get the thing (that they perceive to be potentially dangerous) to reveal its location or leave the area.
Once the deer have identified a potential predator, they will snort as they runoff. Deer are defenseless creatures who take flight with very little provocation.
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3. To Alert the Herd
The noise also works as an alarm signal sent to other deer in the vicinity to warn them something appears wrong.
Deer live in groups. Within each herd, there is a dominant deer. They may also snort in exasperation and fury at other deer to display territorial dominance. Mature deer mainly use the snort to prevent others from raiding or taking over their herd or territory.
In some instances, a deer may snort as a mating cry or when they pick fights with other deer. Especially in the pre-rut to rut period when the male deer dispute a mate. In such circumstances, it produces a snort wheeze sound through their fight.
What Will Happen If A Deer Snorts At You?
If you are on a game drive or hunting and a deer snorts at you, it will most likely flee. However, deer snorts and blows do not always mean that they have detected your presence.
The sounds could be because they are fighting, trying to clear their nostrils, or displaying their dominance.
Mainly when blow or snort is directed to you, the deer is trying to scare you off. If you do not want to scare the animals further, you can stay still while waiting for the wind to shift your scent away from deer.
If you remain still, it will ultimately dismiss your presence, and you will be able to resume your game drive.
Tour guides may even imitate deer calls to fool the deer into thinking they are one of them.
Deer are not often vicious animals. If they detect danger, they will escape; however, some deer species like fighting, such as the white bucktail and mule deer. Deer have also been known to attack when they believe their young are in danger.
Therefore, it is recommended you don’t ignore the snorts or blows or try to stand up. Locate it visually if possible, and then concentrate on being somewhere it is not.
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Body Language Of A Blowing and Snorting Deer
When a deer becomes alert after perceiving danger, it uses two body language signs associated with a snort and blow; hoof stomping and tail signals (tail-flick and tail flair).
Ordinarily, deer usually hold their tails low, but when they detect peril, they elevate them.
A deer may flash its tail and flare out the white hairs on the rump. They also lift and wag loosely from side to side when fleeing danger, displaying the white underbelly and rump patch.
When a deer becomes alert, it often stops abruptly and begins stamping. It elevates one of its forefeet into its body and slams the hoof to the ground repeatedly on the same spot.
The stamping sound and the vibrations made by the deer may be heard from a short distance and felt from a longer distance by other deer or predators.
Is There A Difference Between A Blow And Snort?
Deer produce several sounds and vocalizations. Determining the sound and the circumstances under which it is made will help understand what the deer is communicating.
However, a challenge will occur when distinguishing a blow and snort from other sounds.
All deer snort and blow, irrespective of the type of species, whether male, female, old, or juvenile. Blows and snorts are similar in sound and action. They are produced by the forceful expulsion of air through the nasal passages like a greatly magnified forced sneeze.
Although blowing and snorting are done through the nostrils and used to convey the same feeling, they are slightly different vocalizations. The difference between the two is the frequency in which a deer makes the noises.
Blows are drawn-out “whooshes” repeated when the expelled air flutters the closed nostrils.
Usually, the whoosh means that the deer detects danger, but it is at a distance; it isn’t sure what the threat is yet. The deer attempts to establish what the threat is.
When a deer rapidly exhales air through its nostrils, it creates a snort, similar to an alarming blow but more drawn-out. It is primarily a single concise explosive sound made as the deer begins to run away in fear.
Usually, a snort is higher-pitched and almost sounds like a sharp whistle. They may also be extended and dragging bouts.
Deer produce whistle-snort, more associated with imminent danger among the deer herd. When deer hear the whistle-snort, they usually sprint without bothering to pause and look at the source of the perceived threat.
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Do Spooked Deer Come Back After Snorting?
A deer that detects a predator’s scent and movement, then blows, snorts, and flees, will not return for a long time.
Sometimes it may stay away for up to a week or more. They will leave the area entirely once they confirm a predator is sneaking in. They’re very skittish creatures!
When a deer blows once, then saunters off at a gait or a walk, the deer will likely return to that particular spot.
They will often hook or circle downwind to confirm what came into their area. The predator staying quiet and then readjusting its position to intercept might catch it as it moves around to pinpoint where and what the threat is.
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Blows and snorts are a form of deer communication. In most cases, these sounds signal alarm or distress to warn others of imminent danger. However, they can also be used to symbolize dominance, as mating calls or fights among the herd.
Understanding these vocalizations is one of the best tools to help you stay safe should you encounter a deer in the woods. Snorting may mean that a stronger predator such as mountain lions or wolves might be within your vicinity. In such a circumstance, it is advisable to stay away from it.
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.