Published: Wed, May 10, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Deer Spotted Eating Human Remains for the First Time Ever

Deer Spotted Eating Human Remains for the First Time Ever

It was not clear whether it was the same deer in both instances.

"We already knew that ungulates [hooved animals] tend to scavenge bones, but researchers have only seen it on non-human animal bones". But, according to the case report published in The Journal of Forensic Sciences, researchers were hoping to record how scavengers impact decomposition. So they placed the body in a wooded area in July 2014 without a cage and used cameras to record the animals that stopped by to snack.

Almost one year after they began the experiment - the body has been scavenged into a mere skeleton at this point - the researchers spotted a young white-tailed deer by the carcass with a human rib bone in its mouth.

It wasn't until 182 days after death when much of the body had decomposed and the dry rib cage was exposed that the deer appeared. It happened again just a week later when the camera caught a deer with another rib bone hanging out of its mouth like a cigar.

Meckel said these findings open up possibilities in advancing forensic science, especially to help police rule out certain markers on human remains during their investigations.

Deer rib lateral
Deer Spotted Eating Human Remains for the First Time Ever

The event was particularly shocking as deer are largely omnivorous, only occasionally seeking out flesh to reap its constituent minerals, (such as phosphorus, salt, and calcium) lacking from their normal vegetarian fare.

Ungulates like deer tend to find dry bones of animals that have always been dead, likely bones with a rectangular cross-section. In fact, it's the first time a deer has been documented scavenging on human bones, reports National Geographic.

The team also recovered the gnawed bones to examine the marks left by the deer. Nonetheless, when they find a suitable dish, they strip it dry, the zigzag motions of their jaws leaving behind a "stripped, forked pattern in the bone". It isn't unusual to observe a deer gnawing on a bone, however, and so that wasn't a surprise when researchers captured a deer gnawing on a particular bone.

When most people think of deer, they imagine either something adorable like Bambi or something that exists mostly to destroy cars and backyard gardens.

Though deer may be cute and fuzzy, this latest study is another example reminding us that it's a rough and tumble world out there.

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