White-tailed deer were observed throughout 1,711 hours on the Welder Wildlife Refuge, Texas. Only 11 events considered to be forms of play were witnessed, seven by fawns and four by adults. It is concluded that white-tailed deer are not typically playful animals.
~Edwin D. Michael, 1968 publication
I did some research online after looking at some recent trail camera footage to try to explain what I was seeing. The quote above is the abstract from a paper published in 1968 in The American Midland Naturalist. Maybe Texas deer are more serious than ours, or maybe the deer you about to see has been eating some funny mushrooms…you be the judge (turn volume up and view full screen).
— This young buck seemed to enjoy having water in our wet weather creek last month. He also seems to like an audience based on his reaction when the other deer enters the picture
— The buck continued this behavior for several minutes.
I first thought that the pool of water was the big attraction since most of the creek is very shallow and narrow. But a few days later when the creek bed dried up again, the buck was back (I think it is the same deer anyway). Note the attention paid to the overhanging American Holly branch from time to time (you can also see this to a lesser degree in the other videos). My next post will have some more clues to this mystery.
— The deer acts goofy even in a dry creek bed
Maybe deer are more playful than we think, but only act up when we aren’t around. The lesson here may be to live life to the fullest and splash in every puddle, and keep on playing even when things dry up.
The male deer here in MA use hemlock branches over a scrape and, as I have no recording of them in the act, perhaps they behave in a similar way here. I know the action at these scrapes under hemlock branches happens more in the fall. They may ‘practice’ during the summer.
Interesting, Susan. My next post will deal with this very topic.
Good advice, whether it’s coming from the deer directly or from his behavioral translator…
Oh my gosh! That’s just too cute. That deer is having too much fun!
Yes, it is. And I have caught it (them) doing this sort of stuff on several occasions on different cameras.
Deer gotta’ have fun, too.
I wonder if that’s the same deer that we’ve had cavorting around down here. Fun to watch and really makes you wonder what’s going on in his head. Thanks for posting!
I have seen a couple of them running and cavorting but, so far, I think, only this one nub buck doing the full blown crazy act.
Sure all looked like play to me…..youngster just having fun!
That is one spunky deer! 🦌 Hilarious.
Indeed, and it just kept on and on and on…
Animals definitely play and so delightful to see. Two young female deer stood at the margin of the woods looking out at our field. Then one lept forward and pranced around a big circle in the field, returned to her companion and they turned back into the woods. I had to imagine what she was thinking or saying to her companion, see I’m not afraid, this is a safe place, look at me …or something like that!
I agree, Carol. Play is an important aspects of all lives.
I am all for play, just wondering if there’s not something we’re missing with regards to complex behavior possibilities- like trying to remove parasites, especially biting kinds on the belly, or a reaction to the visual stimulation of light fracturing in water, or interaction with other deer and communication. Play is usually folded in with other learning, as much of human play has underlying survival driven instinct at heart. Here’s a great article on that topic: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/play-may-be-a-deeper-part-of-human-nature-than-we-thought/
I agree (great article btw). This particular deer is interesting in that it does this a lot. i was even wondering if it has a wee bit of a brain issue, but who knows.
Really really enjoyed these videos. You (and your subjects) offer such informative and interesting insight in their natural environment. Thank you so much.
Thanks, Molly. The trail cameras are teaching all of us some new things about our wild neighbors.
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Hi Vicki…glad you like the posts. You will need to go to my blog and hit the Follow button on the right side. That will get you on the email list to receive new posts.