Do Bears Eat Deer? (Black, Grizzly, Polar)

Do Bears Eat Deer

Bears do eat Deer but catching them is a little difficult. Deer live in many of the same areas as Bears and most of the time these two animals tend to peacefully coexist.

A Bear is unlikely to hunt a fully grown Deer. The amount of energy it would take to catch an adult deer far outweighs the benefits.

Deer are extremely fast and can reach speeds of up to forty miles per hour when in full sprint. Bears can reach maximum speeds of about thirty-five miles per hour but their stamina runs out much faster than slender Deer.

If a Bear is incredibly hungry or raising cubs, then they might go out of their way to catch a deer but they know the odds aren’t great. Bears are opportunistic in nature and much like the Lions of the African Savannah, seek out the weakest member of the group before attacking.

It’s usually a fawn (baby deer) that will become the unsuspecting prey for Bears who wait until the mother is out of sight before attacking. Furthermore, most deer that bears eat is carrion meat (recently dead deer) that they have found.

Do Bears Actively Hunt Deer?

Bears and Deer inevitably cross each other’s paths in nature, but bears are poor hunters, they will rarely manage to catch a fully-grown deer.

Bears are omnivores, which means that they consume both animal and plant-based diets. They have relatively unspecialised digestive systems that are similar to that of carnivores.

This means that whilst Bears do attack and eat Deer, their varied diet allows them to seek out other nutritious food sources which are often plant-based.

The scavenger-like hunting style adopted by Bears means that they are far more suited to an easy catch. Deer represent a long-winded chase that more often than not results in a complete waste of energy on the Bear’s part.

A fully grown Deer can outrun a Bear with relative ease and Bears are aware of this.

Bears would much rather feast on a piece of roadkill or a sleeping Deer than going through a strenuous hunt. Hunting behaviours do vary between different types of Bears, with Grizzlies taking the crown for the most lethal.

Do Black Bears Eat Deer?

The common American black Bear is possibly the most dietary ambitious out of all Bear species.

These Bears eat both animal and plant material, with some studies suggesting that they are the least picky.

Black Bears have been known to attack baby Deer, but only when there is an easy opportunity to do so.

It’s thought that the opportunistic nature of omnivorous Bears serves as a big advantage when it comes to hunting. Black Bears are exceptionally smart and are considered to be the most intelligent land animals in North America. The inherent nature of a Black Bear is to conserve energy and choose its battles wisely.

Do Grizzly Bears Eat Deer?

Grizzly bears do eat deer, but it’s usually not deer they’ve actively hunted, except if it’s an unsuspecting fawn. Rather, it’s carrion (dead meat) that they’ve stumbled upon.

As their name suggests, these types of Bears take a much more aggressive approach when it comes to hunting. Grizzly Bears tend to eat a lot more meat than their black Bear cousins and take a bigger active role in hunting.

Grizzlies are native to the North-Western part of North America and can eat up to ninety pounds of food each day. Their voracious appetite accounts for a very unique hunting style amongst bears. The Grizzly Bear is well documented to be aggressive in nature and is the apex predator in their habitat.

A big part of the diet of a Grizzly includes eating carrion, which is rotting or dead flesh and is usually the result of another animal kill, such as the scraps from a wolf hunt.

Whether its prey is scavenged or stolen, the Grizzlies’ unscrupulous hunting style and eating habits go unmatched in the Bear kingdom.

Do Brown Bears Eat Deer?

Like black Bears and Grizzlies, Brown Bears are also omnivorous. Out of the three, brown Bears tend to eat the most vegetation and specialize in smaller prey such as rodents, foxes and rabbits.

Brown Bears do of course eat Deer if the opportunity presents itself but it’s a rarity for this more gentle species.

They are also the slowest out of all mainland North American Bears which means that catching a Deer would be tricky but not impossible. A preferred diet for brown Bears includes berries, small mammals, fish and nuts.

In Scotland, there are plans to reintroduce the geographically extinct European Brown Bear to help with deer overpopulation.

Do Polar Bears Eat Deer?

Polar Bears prefer to snack on seals. They will also eat the carcasses of beached whales.

However, like other bears, they eat just about anything they can get access to. So, they may eat deer when they come across a recently dead deer.

Notably, there are few regular deer within the polar bear’s habitat. But, they do encounter reindeer, so would more likely eat reindeer, simply based on their habitats. One study found reindeer in about 9% bear scat samples.

Like other bears, polar bears are not excellent hunters. They do have the clever skill of surprising seals by sitting on the edge of ice where seals dive out of the water. However, they would be unlikely able to catch a deer in a simple hunt.

As climate change melts the ice in the arctic, polar bears are increasingly hunting on land. This is having devastating effects on bird populations, where bears are resorting to eating bird eggs. Similarly, as polar bears are on land more often these days, they may also cross paths with more reindeer or reindeer carcasses than previously.

Related: Do Polar Bears Hunt Humans?

How Do Bears Attack Deer?

Because Deer are so hard to catch, they have to be taken by surprise in order to obtain the best chance of a successful kill. Studies of Deer carcasses that were executed by Bears have shown evidence of this.

Bears use their mighty strength to render unsuspecting Deer unconscious with one swipe of their paw.

They’ll then use their brutal jaws to complete the kill, fatally biting their prey on the back of the neck or the spine. This is the quickest way for a Bear to take down its prey whilst conserving valuable energy.

Once the Deer corpse is lifeless, Bears will consume the body, wasting nothing and eating everything.

Brown bears, in particular, have been known to store half-eaten carcasses and hide them in the foliage, often returning at a later date to continue their feast.


Bears are innately omnivorous by nature, they are opportunistic scavengers who like to use the least amount of energy for maximum efficiency. They will therefore only eat deer opportunistically rather than actively hunting them.

Nevertheless, bears definitely do eat deer whenever they can, and studies of bear dung show that deer do represent a significant amount of their diets, especially young deer who are easier for bears to catch.

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