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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Deer! (Snort, Bleat, Grunt) (for the Week of April 12, 2009)

April 12, 2009

Q. Dear Twig: Do deer make sounds?


A. They crunch leaves, snap twigs (not me) and whack their antlers on trees. They make sounds, too, with their mouth, nose and throat.

Q. Really?

A. Scientists call it vocalizing. One study found that the white-tailed deer, the kind of deer you probably know, makes at least 12 different sounds — vocalizations.

Q. Awesome.

A. The snort, bawl, mew, bleat, grunt, low grunt, grunt-snort, grunt-snort-wheeze and nursing whine are some of them. Which one depends on the deer's situation: a snort when spooked, a bawl when hurt, a bleat when lost and so on.

Q. Weird.

A. The first time I heard it it scared me. It came from the woods in the dark. A snort. I ran. I ran so far away. (I guess I should have snorted. And then I should have bleated.) But now that I know what it is I like hearing it. Them. Deer sounds. That. It sounds to me like ... wild.


P.S. Listen! Hear some of the world's coolest animal sounds at



The link is to the Web site of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics, part of Ohio State's Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology. If you click on "The Archive," then click on "Search the database by species," you can check out 1,500 animal species by their common name or scientific name, including the white-tailed deer (or Odocoileus virginianus), and hear the amazing sounds they make.

The study mentioned and main source for this is "Vocalizations of White-tailed Deer" by Thomas D. Atkeson, R. Larry Marchinton and Karl V. Miller, American Midland Naturalist, 1988.


About This:

"Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick" is a weekly feature for children (ages 9+; 4th grade reading level) about science, nature, farming and the environment. Online at

Brought to you by your scientific friends at The Ohio State University — specifically, at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) ( and with Ohio State University Extension ( OARDC and OSU Extension are the research and outreach arms, respectively, of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Written by Kurt Knebusch of OARDC and OSU Extension. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt at CommTech, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691;; (330) 263-3776.

Kurt Knebusch