Why Do Deers Run in Circles?

February 14, 2024

When a deer gets spooked they are running on adrenaline and have no thought process. They run full speed in the direction they think is away from whatever scared them. Unfortunately this can sometimes lead to them running into a vehicle or getting tangled in barbed wire. This is why the saying “dumb as a deer” comes from.

Deer spent millions of years adapting to being preyed upon by predators like wolves, bears and mountain lions. Their best defense upon being startled is to just run in a random direction. Figuring out what and where the danger is is secondary as they know that if they stop to look first they will be caught or eaten before they have time to do so.

If they travel across roadways frequently they can become accustomed to the sound of traffic and learn that it is safe. However, if they are unaccustomed to road noise and suddenly encounter a vehicle they can get very spooked and often run without thinking about the danger they are in. This can cause them to unknowingly run in front of vehicles and is one reason why so many car-deer accidents happen.

As a side note, it is important to be aware that some deer may be infected with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). This is a deadly brain disease of members of the Cervidae family which includes mule and white-tailed deer, elk, and moose. It is important to be aware of CWD and avoid hunting in areas where there is a known presence of this disease.

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