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LOOK: Deer Spotted Eating Human Remains for the First Time Ever

May 08, 2017 09:48 AM EDT
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For the first time ever, a deer was spotted snacking on human flesh.

According to a report from Popular Science, scientists from the Forensic Anthropology Research Facility (FARF) were studying the reactions of scavengers on human remains when they left a body in the woods. The team monitored the site with a motion-sensitive camera, which was able to catch a range of scavengers such as vultures, raccoons and coyotes, among others.

Nearly one year after they began the experiment -- the body has been scavenged into a mere skeleton at this point -- the researchers spotted a young white-tailed deer by the carcass with a human rib bone in its mouth. A few days later, there was another glimpse of a deer with another rib. The scientists weren't certain whether it was the same individual.

White-tailed deer are generally considered herbivores, but they are known to occasionally turn carnivorous by eating fish, rabbits and birds. However, this is the first time deer have been observed eating human flesh.

The scientists think that the reason for deer violating their regular herbivore diet with flesh is to get certain minerals like phosphorus, salt and calcium that are missing from their usual diet. Other herbivores may also do the same.

"[The] desire to consume bone, is practiced by ungulates [a hoofed mammal] primarily to obtain phosphorus in addition to supplementing calcium, sodium, and other minerals that are absent from their vegetarian diet during periods of nutritional stress, particularly in the winter months or without seasonal preference," the authors wrote in the study, according to a report from Gizmodo.

Ungulates like deer tend to find dry bones of animals that have long been dead, likely bones with a rectangular cross-section. The ends of the bones reportedly get the most damage with the ungulates' jaws leaving a "stripped, forked pattern." Meanwhile, carnivores gravitate towards fresh meat.

The findings were published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

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