Deer are hoofed mammals found almost everywhere in the world – except Antarctica. There are two main groups, one of which is Cervinae, where the elk, chital, and muntjac belong. The other is the Capreolinae group, which includes the moose, roe deer, and reindeer.
While some deer species – at least the bigger ones such as the moose and elk – are somehow on the top of the food chain, they are still vulnerable to several predators, such as the ones listed below.
Predators of Deer
1. Grizzly Bear
Also known as the North American Brown Bear, the grizzly is one of the deadliest predators known to the deer population. It might not be as fast as the feline predators below, but it’s big as it is dangerous. After all, the average male grizzly weighs anywhere between 180 to 360 kilos, with a height of about 6.5 feet.
Although the grizzly bear is a meat-eating carnivore, it is typically an omnivore who devours both animals and plants. It favors large mammals, including many deer species, such as that of the elk, moose, caribou, mule deer, and white-tailed deer.
Because of the size of some deer species such as the elk and the moose, they prove to be dangerous prey. As such, the grizzly bear works on these by stalking them first. And, if all else fails, it will set its sights on a weak adult – even a helpless calf. Due to its predilection for the young ones, the grizzly bear is blamed for the withering number of elks in Yellowstone National Park.
2. Mountain Lion
This large tan cat, which is often found in the Americas, is one of the deer’s fiercest predators. While it is popularly called the mountain lion, it is also known by a few names: cougar, puma, catamount, or red tiger.
The mountain lion is an ambush predator, meaning it captures prey – such as that of the deer – via stealth and strategy. It can lurk in trees and brushes before it pounces on the deer, killing it with a mighty neck bite.
The cougar is a generalist predator, one that will eat any animal it catches – whether it’s big or small. As an obligate carnivore, meat is a necessity for its diet. As such, it favors munching on various deer species, such as the white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, even the moose.
The only Panthera found in the Americas, the jaguar is considered the largest cat species in the new world. Like most big felines, it is an obligate carnivore that can feed on as much as 87 animal species.
The jaguar often stalks and ambushes its prey, instead of the usual act of chasing them. And when it does, it starts by biting the animal before suffocating it.
However, there are times when the jaguar favors biting through the skull, effectively piercing the deer’s brain. Once the prey is immobile, it commences by feeding on the neck and chest, before heading towards its shoulders.
Another one of the felines that have a predisposition towards deer meat is the bobcat. This midsize cat is known for its brown or gray coat, whiskered face, and tufted ears. A native of North America, it is an adaptable predator that feeds on rabbits, geese, chicken, birds, rodents, and of course, the occasional deer.
Bobcats hunt deer and other animals by stalking it first. Afterward, it chases its prey before pouncing and killing it.
The deer is the bobcat’s main food source during the wintertime when smaller preys are nowhere to be found. A high deer population might also prod the midsize feline to chomp on this type of animal. However, since bobcats usually prefer smaller game, they often feed on the defenseless fawn.
5. Gray Wolf
Also known as the ‘wolf,’ this canine is native to North America, Asia, and Europe. Males weigh an average of 40 kilos, while the females are a little smaller at 37 kilos.
Gray wolves are known to be very effective predators of deer. In fact, one to two wolves are enough to kill a large moose or an elk. It’s not that easy though, as these two species usually don’t come down without a fight.
Wolves are widely successful because of their good tracking skills, which enable them to hunt even in the middle of the night. Since they can achieve speeds of 50 to 60 kilometers an hour, they are often successful in hunting the biggest of deer species.
After the wolf is able to munch its way through the deer hide, it disables it. Once it has done so, the feeding will commence. As for the case of the elk and the moose, their large sizes give the wolves a food source that can be feasted upon for many days.
With a weight ranging from 8 to 20 kilograms, the coyote is comparably smaller to some species of deer. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in agility.
This deer predator team up in pairs or small groups when they hunt for deer. This fierce animal usually comes at the front, attacking the deer’s head and throat.
In some cases, the merciless coyotes gang up on fawns while their mothers are out looking for food.
Like other canines, coyotes cache or store the excess deer (or other animal) meat for future consumption. They tend to urinate on their food, probably to tell other coyotes that he owns it.
Humans prove to be the biggest deer predator of all. Most hunt the deer for sport, with a huge majority saving and stuffing the head of their catches as remembrances of their hunting adventures.
On the other hand, some hunt deer because they are considered a nuisance.
For a handful of people, deer are hunted to provide some form of sustenance. A good example is the reindeer venison, which is considered a delicacy in some parts of the world. Reports suggest that as much as 200,000 deer are slaughtered annually to meet the demand for ‘game’ around the globe.
Deer come in a variety of species – from the small pudu to the majestic elk. Despite their size, they are predated by humans and many other animals, including the grizzly bear, mountain lion, jaguar, bobcat, wolf, and coyote.
I hope that this article on deer predators was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Animal Facts Page!