What Scientists Caught Deer Doing for the First Time Ever May Help Investigations

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May 05, 2017

Forensic Scientists perform many interesting experiments to help them solve investigations more effectively and accurately. 

Sometimes that includes leaving different corpses outside to rot and decompose. Scientists study the way the body decomposes, what affects the way a body decomposes, and which scavengers will feed on the body.

There is a 26-acre Forensic Anthropology Research Facility (FARF) in San Marcos, Texas where scientists study body decomposition.

In July 2014, a body was left in the woods as part of FARF to learn how different foragers leave marks on human remains. 

The scientists set up motion-sensitive cameras to see which animals would stop by to feed on the body.

It is not uncommon to see foxes, turkey vultures, raccoons, coyotes, and other flesh-eating animals picking at a corpse in this part of Texas. 

However, after a few months had gone by, a new animal approached the carcass.  

On January 5, 2015, the camera recorded a young white-tailed deer standing by the skeleton with a human rib bone in its mouth. Again, on January 13th, a deer was seen with a rib bone in its mouth- perhaps even the same deer. 

This is the first known time a deer has been seen scavenging human bones, and these findings were published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences. 

However, this is not the first time deer have been caught breaking their vegetarian lifestyle. They have been seen eating fish, bats, and dead rabbits. 

Scientists believe herbivores may sometimes try to find flesh to get minerals which they are not getting enough of in their diets, such as phosphorus, salt, and calcium.  

Scientists observe the different marks left behind on the bones from the herbivorous deer, as opposed to carnivores. They have found that deer tend to desire bones which have been decaying for a while and are very dried out, while carnivores desired fresh bones.

Although these sightings and evidence are rare, being able to recognize the different marks from the teeth could help investigators determine where a body came from and how long it has been dead- which would ultimately lead to solving a case. 

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