A young buck uncovers a gut pile in the northern snow. A study by Pete Squibb of Wildlife Solutions, LLC, and Brad Thurston, M.D, revealed that deer are often the first animals to arrive on the scene when there is a carcass present in the woods.
Does and bucks both were reported checking out and eating gut piles and carcasses--a huge departure from common deer understanding that they are completely herbivores that eat only forbs, leafy plants, clovers and grasses. Deer were recorded visiting as many as 64 percent of bait sites one year during the 3-year study.
This young button buck was actually photographed trying to eat this dead rabbit. Researcher Pete Squibb says while the deer tried to puncture the body cavity, it never succeeded. Rather it consumed the dead rabbit's legs and ears.
While gut piles are prevalent in the ecosystem, it is unlikely they will become a significant source of nutrition for whitetails. What does need to be study further is how likely it is that deer contract diseases from eating the fat and other parts of dead animals they encounter. Other animals photographed at bait piles included uncommon candidates including squirrels and rabbits (actually seen eating parts of the gut piles) and wild turkeys and pheasants, photographed only, but never seen eating from these bait sites.