When deer get scared, they use a wide range of sounds, such as sniffs, stomps, bleats, blows, and snorts, to warn others in the herd.
Deer don’t usually produce loud noises, however, they developed vocal organs and systems to express distinct feelings, fear being one of them. For instance, when making sniffs, deer use their powerful sense of smell to detect scents of their predators.
On the other hand, hoof-stomping and blowing (whoosh sneeze) sounds are meant to frighten predators into revealing their hideouts so that the deer can run in a different direction.
The last sound a nervous deer makes is a snort. It is a concise explosive sneeze that deer make after identifying the threat before fleeing for safety.
What Sounds Does A Deer Make When Scared?
Deer often get nervous and scared whenever they sense threats around them. There are three main sounds that a mature deer produces when it’s scared.
When scared, it first makes a sniffing sound. After that, a stomping noise to distinguish the exact threat. Finally, snorting sounds are produced to warn the rest of the deer herd before it flees for safety.
Sound 1: Sniffing
If a deer begins to detect something odd around it, it makes sniffing sounds. It’s one of the ways deer perceive danger when they can’t see it yet.
The sniff sounds quite similar to a human sniff but is often more profound and powerful. It is attributed to the deer’s nose as it is bigger than the typical human’s.
When deer sniff, they try to detect the scent of things near them. It is in an attempt to better smell the threat and to alert the rest of the herd to anything odd in their vicinity. They are able to do this because they have heightened senses of smell and can detect and identify different creatures. Some deer species can detect many scents simultaneously
This allows them to identify the prospective predator more quickly; by better locating it. The sniff is most likely the simplest to notice. Hence, it also benefits archers because they can hear them.
Hunting Tip: A sniffing sound could be because a deer has sensed the presence of another animal. When hunting, first, check your vicinity to see if there’s anything else that could scare the deer; probably, you haven’t been busted.
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Sound 2: Stomping
Stomps are also an indication that the deer are becoming nervous and suspicious of the surrounding activities. Wary deer may begin softly stamping the ground with one of their hooves as they sniff.
Stomping is similar to a woodblock striking the ground. Deer often stomp when they first suspect a possible threat around them but is unsure what that threat is.
The gentle pound on the ground is usually quite audible because deer are generally relatively quiet. Loud enough that predators can discover its location.
The sound alerts the other deer in the herd, signaling them of nearby danger. It also acts as a warning sign to potential predators. It may be directed to potential danger to make the predator move to help them identify its exact location.
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Sound 3: Blowing and Snorting
After sniffing and stomping, the deer may know what the potential threat is. Once it ascertains that someone or something is trying to hurt it, it makes a blowing and snorting sound before running off.
Blowing and snorting are the final sounds a deer makes before running off.
However, if it has not identified what the threat is, it will stand its ground and blow repeatedly. Hence, the blow is in an attempt to startle the predator into revealing its position. It usually comes with constant ground stomping. This way, it will determine if the smell constitutes a severe threat or not.
Upon being sure that the danger is around, it snorts to alert the whole herd.If you hear it, it means the deer are preparing to flee the area as soon as possible, or they have already made a quick escape.
Usually, not more than one deer will start the warning call. Often at times, the rest of the herd could even remain unfazed until one initiates the sounds.
These sounds are similar to a sneeze. However, they are like a sharp and strong wheeze (whoosh sound). They are created by expelling air forcefully and rapidly through nasal passages.
A typical blow is a drawn-out whoosh sound produced severally, whereas a snort is a more drawn-out blow. A snort is a single concise higher-pitched sneeze and sounds nearly like a piercing whistle.
Note: Fear is not the only reason a deer may snort and blow. Deer blows and snorts when frustrated or angered, especially when disputing over a mate, territorial dominance, or picking up fights. They may also snort and blow to clear the nose to detect faint odors.
Related Article: Do Deer Symbolize Strength?
Sound 4: Bleat
Bleats sounds are produced by baby deer (fawns) when they are still young and dependent on their mothers. Fawns make a squealing bleat, especially when playing with other deer, calling their mother for food or help when cornered, injured, or terrified.
Bleat could be quiet and rhythmic when the fawn is merely separated from its mother or herd. But it is primarily high pitch when a fawn feels scared. It is a loud and panicked sound.
The bleat noise gets more frequent and increases in volume depending on how much the fawn feels in danger. The bleats become louder and drawn-out as they cry out while getting in grave peril, such as being attacked by predators.
Fun Fact: As the deer grows older, the pitch of the bleat sound decreases.
Since fawns bleat for various reasons, it’s advisable to pay attention to their behavior to determine whether they’re scared, hungry, lost, or simply content.
What Scares A Deer
Varying from species to species, deer mostly live in herds and various geographic ranges. Predators scare deer the most but are limited to the geographic range the type of deer species inhabits.
Depending on the deer species, they are mainly preyed on by coyotes, cougars, bears, wolves, jaguars, puma, tayra, and humans.
Foxes, feral and domestic dogs, alligators, and bobcats prey on deer infrequently. They are primarily opportunistic feeders who might occasionally prey on fawns or injured, old, and sick mature deer.
Deer have a herd mentality. They take care of each other by sending alarm signals to each other when they sense danger. It means hunters have to understand these sounds, especially of a scared deer. It will help them know whether they should go on with the hunt or withdraw.
By learning the sound of a sacred deer, you can know when deer have sensed your presence, other predators, and when they haven’t. That way, you can determine their location and understand the deer’s next move.
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.