As any hunter who’s spent the summer tending a food plot and hunting it in the fall can tell you, deer are herbivores. But every now and then, deer take a trip to the carnivorous side of life. In a video posted to Instagram on June 9, one whitetail makes a meal out of a big snake.
This video, which was filmed in Texas by user Trey Reinhart, begs a question: Is the deer eating the snake or did the snake bite the deer?
“I do believe the deer is eating that snake, I don’t believe that snake is hung onto the deer,” National Deer Association director of conservation Matt Ross tells Outdoor Life. “Deer have been known to eat animals. There’s research out there showing that a very small percent of some deer diet could be songbirds or eggs … not at a population level but an individual deer or small groups of deer. Their teeth are made to be plant eaters, and 99.9999 percent of a deer’s diet is going to be vegetation.”
There’s a big difference between a few songbird eggs and a two-plus-foot-long snake (the species in the video is unclear, although its tail lacks a rattle). But plenty of trail camera photos have popped up over the years that show deer eating small game and picking at carcasses—even a human one.
Research has shown that deer and other herbivores will occasionally eat animals to balance nutrient deficiencies. If they lack calcium or vitamin D in their plant diet, they might boost those levels by eating a few baby birds or rabbits. But in this instance, Ross thinks the deer’s choice was more out of curiosity than necessity.
“My guess is that [the snake] had a taste and a palatable sensation that [the deer] liked. I don’t think the deer was eating because it was hungry,” Ross says. “It was probably just chewing on that thing because it didn’t know any better, and the snake probably tasted different and good. It’s a cool capture on video, but it is super rare.”
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Instagram account Nature is Metal picked up the video and broadcast it to their 4.7 million followers. Some of the comments there have likened the snake to a Fruit Roll-Up and “nature’s Nerds Rope.”
Or, as one commenter put it, “snakes are just big spaghetti.”