Deer belong to the Cervidae family and are classified as either does, bucks, or fawns. With over forty species in existence, you have to wonder, how do deer communicate with one another?
Deer communicate through snorting, bleating, grunting, and whining. They are most active at dawn and dusk and will make most of their noises then. All deer make noises, regardless of their gender, and the intensity of their sounds can vary depending on the situation they find themselves in.
Fawns, for example, will make quieter noises that gain power as they get older! Let’s dig in to learn more interesting facts about deer calls and how to distinguish them from one another.
Deer Give Out Distress and Alarm Calls When They Sense Danger
All deer make high-pitched distress calls when they are in danger. The sound is usually a lengthy, uncontrolled, loud call with their mouth open. Deer give off the distress call if there is a danger of being attacked by a predator.
The alarm call a deer gives off sounds similar to a dog barking and can be emitted through the mouth or nose. As part of their alert, a deer may also stomp its feet on the ground.
Deer often use the alarm call to let a predator know they are aware of their presence in hopes of the predator backing away. They also alert others in their herd to know there is potential for danger.
Finally, if a fawn were to give out a distress call, it would likely attract a doe. A fawn’s distress call can be due to several reasons, including hunger, attention-seeking, or they are lost. Mother deer and their young have a very similar relationship to that of humans.
Does Make An Estrus Bleat When In Heat
When a doe is in heat, she makes an estrus bleat sound, almost like that of a wazoo. While a buck pursues the female, the doe stops when she is ready to mate and makes the bleat sound.
The estrus bleat is typically very loud and is usually heard most between October and December when deer go in heat. Mating season is also referred to as “the rut.”
Does who are with a buck do not typically give off the estrus bleat. Instead, it’s used for those still seeking a buck to mate with.
The gestation period for deer is between seven and eight months and the doe usually only gives birth to one fawn. However, it’s not uncommon for a deer to have twins.
Once the fawn is born, the male retreats and joins other males, leaving the mother and young alone.
Males will give off a sound during mating, depending on whether they are monogamous or not. Monogamous male deer will only give off soft vocalizations if any. On the other hand, polygynous deer are extremely vocal and give out a loud, repetitive sound while attracting a mate.
Finally, since a doe will only let out an estrus bleat for a few weeks in a year, it’s unlikely to be heard by humans. However, it is pretty effective at calling bucks.
Bucks Grunt To Show Dominance
A buck is a beautiful creature, but you don’t want to cross paths with one. A buck’s horns are very distinguishable and come to their aid in a fight, in addition to making different noises.
Dominance is typically official by the time a buck reaches maturity. Testosterone levels also play a major factor in determining which bucks are dominant.
When two bucks encounter one another, they will both give off grunting sounds to show their dominance.
Grunts are short and aren’t necessarily loud. It’s almost like they are short and to the point. So a buck wants to show another buck who’s boss.
Bucks will defend their territory, regardless of whether they are with a female. A buck’s territory will determine their reproductive ability since they tend to only mate with deer within their preferred area.
In addition, immature male deer (bucks) decrease the intensity of their grunt if a mature male is grunting back. As one may expect, the mature males will increase their volume to show dominance.
Doe Bleat When Around Their Fawns
Does give out a specific sound if they are separated from their young. A mother gives off a moderate bleat, while the fawn’s sound is more high-pitched.
A doe will also bleat to let her fawn know where she is or if it is time to feed. The fawn will bleat to her mother if she is lost or just wants attention.
A doe and her young have these specific sounds to reinforce their bond. A mother deer is very protective of her young and takes precautions to protect their fawn from the moment it is born.
If you have ever come across a fawn by itself in your yard, you might be tempted to help it. So while you may think it’s an orphan, that’s far from reality.
According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, a doe will bring her fawn to a secluded area and come back periodically over three weeks.
A fawn has little odor and likely won’t attract any predators, so it’s best to leave them alone if you find one.
Bucks Give A Snort-Wheeze To Intimidate Other Bucks
If two bucks come across each other, they may give off a snort-wheeze sound to alert each other they are aware of their presence. If a buck has already grunted showing its dominance and then produces the snort-wheeze, it means they are ready to fight.
Bucks may circle the opponent or begin charging as a method of intimidation.
The distinctive sound is made when a buck quickly releases air from its nostrils. It’s considered an extremely aggressive call and is usually only produced by mature bucks.
Picture a buck attempting to clear up a stuffy-up nose, and that’s what the snort-wheeze sounds like.
Finally, bucks are most aggressive at the beginning of the breeding season and therefore are more likely to be producing sounds to ward off other bucks.
Fawns Whine When They Are With Their Mother
Much like a young child may whine for their mother, a fawn will make a similar sound while communicating.
Fawns whine while they are nursing from their mother, and the sound is of low intensity and is a beautiful way to strengthen their bond. The whining is brief and can vary in tone.
One should note that while the sound is deemed a “whine,” it’s a way for the fawn to express joy while around its mother.
As the fawn gets older, its sound becomes more high-pitched and more distinct than the whines they give off when they are firstborn.
Bucks Groan During Mating Season
Mating season is a prime time to hear the various sounds deer can make. The loudness of a buck’s groan will vary depending on its body size.
As one would assume, the buck with the loudest groan tends to be more successful during mating season. For example, a buck may groan as many as 60 times within one hour.
A groan may come across deeper than a buck’s body size may suggest. However, a more resounding groan is more important than body size in the hierarchy.
Not only does a deeper groan mean the buck has a successful mating season, but they also are more likely to reign supreme in their herd.
The competition runs high when it comes to the groaning of bucks. Unfortunately, some bucks aren’t successful during mating season, so it becomes incredibly competitive.
Finally, the downside to having the loudest groan is that bucks tend not to eat much during mating season and lose a good percentage of body weight.
Physical Ways That Deer Communicate
Deer don’t only use sounds and noises to communicate. Instead, deer will use their whole body as a way to communicate.
For example, a deer may use their ears to let family members know of potential danger. The ears will be raised and on alert. Deer also sweep their ears back if they take notice of something.
Bucks will fight with their antlers, and if they become stuck, the brawl ends with both being considered losers.
Physical contact is a way to show dominance. Take this, for example. A dominant deer will strike another deer with its foot and attempt to push the deer’s head down.
A deer’s tail is also an excellent indicator of communication. If a deer senses danger, it will lay its tail flat and flare it out before bolting. On the other hand, if a deer’s tail begins swishing back and forth, they feel comfortable and no longer in danger.
Deer will also stomp as a way to communicate. If a doe is not ready to mate, the buck will stomp in an almost agitated state.
In addition, deer use sniffing to alert others there may be a danger, since deer have a stellar sense of smell, they can detect whether a predator is close to them.
Finally, a fawn will communicate with body language to her fawn. A mother deer can tell from far away whether a fawn is hers or not, based on how the young moves. She can also use her sense of smell to find her offspring.
This is why if you ever see a fawn, don’t pick it up as the scent will become off putting to its mother doe and thus, she’ll abandoned it not thinking the fawn is hers!
What To Do If You Have Deer In Your Yard
For the most part, deer are harmless when they are prancing through your backyard. You probably loved watching the deer the first few times you spotted them! But, it can get tiresome if they are ruining your yard.
Luckily, if deer hear you coming, they likely will run away, but that doesn’t mean you should approach them if they stay still.
If you do not have a fenced-in yard and know you often get deer, you will want to protect your garden. Deer love to eat plants like hostas and a variety of others. Any unprotected produce, plants, and flowers are fair game to be a deer’s next meal.
To keep deer away from your house, you should:
- Keep all trash cans covered and locked if left outside.
- Use various scents and essential oils to deter deer. Here’s one of our favorite articles on scents that deer hate.
- Maintain your landscape so it is not appealing to deer.
- Add garden ornaments to your yard. Deer are skittish and will avoid areas they don’t feel comfortable.
- If all else fails, you might want to consider adding a fence to your yard. The initial cost will reap benefits in the long run.
- Let your dog out as often as possible. For example, a dog will likely start barking if it spots a deer. After a bit of time, the deer will know it’s not the best yard to graze in.
- You can read more about our recommended best natural deer repellents here.
In addition, you will attract deer to your yard if you have a viable water source. A birdbath, pool, or container collecting water are all appealing to deer.
If possible, keep all water sources secure and unavailable to roaming deer. Any sheltered area is a bonus to a tired and hungry deer.
You can also use specific sounds and noises that will scare deer away!
That’s A Wrap!
There are several sounds and noises deer make, as you can see. Regardless of their gender or age, every deer makes distinct sounds that each serve a purpose.
Deer may bleat, grunt, groan and snort as ways to ward off predators or show dominance. Fawns will whine to their mothers when they are nursing and are looking for comfort. In addition, fawns will bleat if they cannot find their mother.
Since deer are most active at dawn and dusk, these are the most common times when you may hear one of their distinctive sounds.
As a reminder, it’s best to stay away from deer and avoid approaching a fawn, as its mother will return. However, if the fawn is still there after a few weeks and appears injured, you can reach out to a local wildlife rehabilitation center.
There are several methods to keeping deer out of your yard, including putting up a fence, keeping trash secured, and adding specific scents that deer do not like. If you feel like you have an issue, you can always contact a wildlife professional for assistance.
Atkeson, Thomas D., R. Larry Marchinton, and Karl V. Miller. “Vocalizations of white-tailed deer.” American Midland Naturalist (1988): 194-200.
Carranza, Juan, Fernando Alvarez, and Tomás Redondo. “Territoriality as a mating strategy in red deer.” Animal Behaviour 40.1 (1990): 79-88.
Reby, David, and Karen McComb. “Vocal communication and reproduction in deer.” Advances in the Study of Behavior 33 (2003): 231-264.
Vannoni, Elisabetta, Marco VG Torriani, and Alan G. McELLIGOTT. “Acoustic signalling in cervids: a methodological approach for measuring vocal communication in fallow deer.” Cogn Brain Behav 9 (2005): 551-566.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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