Most people think of deer as woodland creatures. They’re partial to the smell of fallen leaves and moist earth — in other words, places where it stays humid and green year-round. You wouldn’t expect to find them in a crackling thunderstorm or a frozen forest after dark, right? And yet, despite all your research on deer behavior, you still can’t be sure whether they do.
It depends on the species, of course; some are more suited to the elements than others. But overall, it seems they come out whenever they want to — and that might not be as predictable as we think.
Do Deer Come Out In The Rain?
In general, no. At least, not for long. You’ll notice the most dramatic changes in behavior during heavy or prolonged rain. In fact, deer are most likely to change their behavior during a flash flood or flood.
This is when they’ll seek higher ground, like a riverbank or an elevated area, to escape the rising water. That said, deer also have a more everyday relationship with rain. They may change their behavior in more subtle ways as weather conditions change.
Buck vs. Doe Behavior
Buck and doe behavior differs across the year. During autumn, both bucks and does will come out in rain. However, bucks may do so more often, as they approach the breeding season. As their antlers grow, they’re less able to resist the cold, and so they have to come out during rain to stay warm. During the winter, bucks and does both come out during rain. However, does may do so more often.
This is when bucks are hibernating and are raising their fawns indoors. No matter what the season, bucks and does may show very different responses to rain. Does are at least as vulnerable to the cold as bucks. They might need to come out in the rain to stay warm. But they may also stay indoors in milder weather to save energy.
What Kind of Deer Stay in During Rain?
The white-tailed deer, mule deer, and Virginia deer are rain lovers. They’re adapted to live in areas where it’s humid all year, including the southeastern U.S. Rudolf, Jacob, and the rest of the ibex clan prefer high dry places. They’re not partial to rain and are at their most active in dry, hot weather.
So, Do Deer Actually Come Out in the Rain?
Some do and some don’t. Just as they do during any other weather change, deer respond to rain in all sorts of ways. And just as they do in other situations, deer do have preferences. Bucks and does have different preferences. And individuals within a species may have their own, personal preferences.
Bucks, for example, appear to be sensitive to the depth of water in the area where they like to lie down. They’ll only come out in the rain if there’s not too much water. We don’t know if does are as picky. But even if they are, they may have to come out in rain to stay warm and dry if they’re raising their fawns indoors.
Keeping Dry: Shedding and Shifting Body Weight
Deer are good at shedding water. And they seem to seek out drier places when the rain picks up. This can be as simple as lying on a lower part of the forest floor to keep dry. Bucks may also shift their body weight to lie down in drier places. And they may be more likely to do so during prolonged rain.
Bucks and does may also change their behavior to avoid getting wet. They may avoid open areas where the rain falls hardest. Or they may head for cover to avoid getting wet.
Staying Warm: Muscle Shivering and Thermoregulation
Deer have ways of staying warm in the rain, too. Bucks and does will shiver their muscles if they get too cold. They’re capable of thermoregulation, which means they can raise or lower their body temperature to suit the weather.
These animals also have a way of humidifying the air around them. Their moist breath helps them stay warm when there’s no rain.
Deer can be surprisingly adaptable creatures. Even though they come from different habitats, with different climates and weather patterns, they can thrive across a large range. And when it comes to rain, deer have lots of ways of dealing with it. Deer can change their behavior to keep themselves drier and warmer in the rain.
They can also shed water and humidify the air around them to stay warm. But deer are also good at predicting the weather. They might come out in the rain to feed or breed. Or they might stay indoors to save energy.
In short, it’s complicated. There’s no single, reliable rule for when deer come out in the rain. Instead, there are lots of different behaviors, depending on the weather, the species, and the deer.