Why Don’t Deer Look Up?

Well, as you can see from the picture above, they do look up, but not very often.


In general, I think it’s reasonably accurate to say that roe deer spend very little time looking up. The reason for that is because in an environment where the roe deer do have natural predators (i.e. on the continent, where their main enemies are wolves, lynx and bears), nearly all their threats come from a ground-based attack.

In fact, this is true in Britain, too, except, although adult roe deer have virtually* no land-based predators, humans are by far the biggest threat to their lives. (Foxes do predate on young fawns.)

*I said ‘virtually’ because it is entirely possible that golden eagles and white-tailed sea eagles do take a small number of adult roe deer every year.

However, as shown here, they do look up every now and then. Roe deer are incredibly adaptive animals and they have evolved to live in a habitat where they do face an occasional aerial based assault; attacks from golden eagles in the plains and forested areas of Russia and the far east.

So, in summary: Roe deer spend nearly all their time looking across the land, rather than up, because what where the vast majority of dangers to their life come from.

Image Details:

Technical data: shutter time 1/200 s, aperture f/4, ISO 3600, focal length 400mm.

I had been with this doe for about 2 hours, as she fed on the nearby bushes and the grass, before finally pawing the ground a few times and making herself a comfortable lie to rest up.

She was with a buck, who was to the left, and he, too, was simply resting in the grass. Although he had his back to me, I could see from his jaw movements that was ruminating on this recent intake.

After few minutes of simply laying and looking around, the doe started to regurgitate mouthfuls of grass and woody stems for their second chewing.

It was very quiet, but then all of a sudden, she started looking up in the bushes and trees to the right. I couldn’t see or hear anything in the vegetation that I would expect to cause her concern, but something was clearly bothering her. (Maybe there was a buzzard resting on one of the higher branches.)

She spent about 20 to 30 seconds looking up in that direction, all the time with a mouthful of cud. (If you look closely, you can just about see the small bulge it caused in her cheek.)

Eventually, she relaxed again and went back to her ruminating. She laid there for a further half an hour before getting up to have another feed, as the light started to fade and I had to leave her.

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