“Guileless natural beauty” or “doe-eyed” are perhaps the images that come to mind when we think of deer.
And so it came as a surprise when scientists at Texas' Forensic Anthropology Research Facility (FARF) stumbled across images of a deer gnawing on a human rib.
It was the first known evidence of a deer scavenging human bones, according to a study
published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences last week.
Although deer are herbivorous and usually subsist on plants, they have been known to munch on nonhuman bones during winter, possibly to obtain minerals absent in their diet, scientists say.
Researchers at FARF were studying how different scavengers left their marks on human remains. Such studies help investigators figure out things like how long a person had been dead.
In July 2014, they set up motion-sensitive cameras near a body to see which animals showed up. On January 5 next year, a white-tailed deer was seen munching on a rib bone.
A week later, another deer was seen chewing on rib bone, reports Popular Science
Researchers noted that ungulates or hoofed mammals tended to seek out dry bones of long-dead animals. Their gnawing left distinctly different forked patterns on bones unlike other scavengers.
Identifying the ungulates teeth marks on bones could prove useful in murder investigations in regions where deer are plentiful.