Nature lovers and hunters often want to know how and where deer sleep. It is usually a common question that arises among them. You might be surprised to know that despite popular belief, deer don’t sleep at night as much as they sleep during the day. Because they are nocturnal creatures, they sleep mainly during the day.
The process by which deer sleep and rest is called bedding. For deer, many factors affect where and how they sleep, including but not limited to weather change and proximity to food.
Come along as we explore the various ways deer sleep and the factors that affect where they sleep.
Where Do Deer Sleep?
Deer sleep in thick, dense foliage, in the open fields, and under low-hanging trees in the forest. They don’t have a fixed place they sleep – any comfortable and safe place from predators would do.
There are three main things a deer looks for when deciding where to make a bed down or sleep:
- Coverage: the bedding ground has to provide them with camouflage against predators.
- Food & water: the bedding area has to bear an abundant supply of water and food. It must also lack the presence of predators.
- Entrance & Exit: A deer will only sleep in a place it can easily escape from when spotted by predators.
Most deer sleep on their sides with their heads up, while baby deer or fawns sleep with their noses tucked under their hind legs. Some of them sleep while standing up, although that is rare. You can’t tell if a deer is sleeping because they close and open their eyes while sleeping to confuse predators.
The deer is a creature of habit, and once it finds a safe place to bed-down, it tends to return to this place several times to sleep. The bed of a deer can be made up of a brush pile, grass, or dirt. Several beds can be found in a bedding ground.
Types of Deer and Their Habitat
Deer are the most widespread animals across the globe, known for their elegance, noble and calm appearance, and massive antlers. The different types all look similar, but their habitat and appearance help distinguish them. The following are some of the most common deer in the world:
The White-Tailed Deer
White-tailed deer are primarily found in Northern America, Canada, and south of the Peruvian mountains. The white-tailed deer can be found in wooded areas and open grasslands.
The Mule Deer
Mule deer are social animals that can be found in the coniferous forest of Stony Mountain. They live in big groups and can be found sleeping or dozing in bushy hillsides, where the majority of their preferred food can be found.
The Hog Deer
The hog deer can be found in Australia, Northern India, and the mainland of Southeast Asia. They are very private and form small groups.
The Fallow Deer
The largest deer in the world, the moose, can be found in the forests of the northern hemisphere. Moose are extremely solitary animals and are very picky eaters.
When Do Deer Sleep?
Mostly, deer sleep during daylight hours while the sun is out, usually between the hours of noon and 4 p.m. They don’t sleep for long, and they move their bedding ground a lot while napping.
Deer rarely sleep at night because this is when their predators are most active. They can, however, sleep at night if they are hiding from predators or trying to conserve energy.
Where Do Deer Sleep in the Winter?
During winter, deer sleep in areas that would provide adequate cover from the cold winds and offer protection from predators. This is why they use south-facing slopes for their beds in winter.
The slopes provide warm bedding grounds during the day. It enables them to see any predator approaching, allowing them to escape on time.
How Long Do Deer Sleep?
Each deer sleep cycle consists of dozing 30 seconds to 3minutes. Then they snap awake, look around for predators, stretch their limbs, and go back to sleep. Sometimes, they defecate or urinate after they wake up.
They repeat this sleep cycle continuously for about 30 minutes. If you count the numerous sleep cycles deer have in a day, it would amount to a total of about 12 hours.
Do Deer Sleep Alone or in Groups?
Deer may sleep alone on occasion, but they love sleeping in groups. It makes them feel safer from predators. A group of deer can spot a predator faster than a single deer will.
So the larger the number of deer gathered in a place, the easier it is to spot a predator before it’s too late.
Can Deer Hear or Smell While Sleeping?
The ears of deer are always alert through their sleep cycle. They are incredibly aware of every change in their environment, even while sleeping.
They can also smell exceptionally well while they sleep. These specific detection features make them very alert to predatory sounds and smell. This is also why they are such elusive game for hunters
Fascinating Facts About the Deer
- Deer are ruminant mammals that belong to the Cervidae family.
- The gestation period of the doe is between 180 to 240 days.
- The baby deer or fawn doesn’t have a noticeable smell, which makes it easier to protect them from predators.
- The Peer Davids Deer is an endangered species of deer, according to the IUCN, that doesn’t exist in the wild anymore, only in enclosures.
- Although now extinct, the Irish elk is the largest deer species ever to exist.
- Male red deer can make itself ejaculate by rubbing its antlers against grass.
- A female deer can digest her fetus if she becomes malnourished under harsh conditions.
- The key deer, a small Northern American deer, frequently interacts with humans. It is also one of the endangered species of deer.
Now that we know how and where deer sleep, you should now understand that deer don’t have a predictable sleep cycle because they are prey to many predators, so you’ll likely find them changing their sleeping/bedding location several times a day.
Bonus: Why Do Deer Sleep in My Yard?
As animals are forced out of their habitats by human development, you may have noticed that deer sightings are becoming more frequent. If you live in an area with some wooded areas in between houses you may be surprised to learn that deer don’t roam very far and can be content to live in 100 yards of area if it is safe from predators and has plenty of food and water. Often, a residential area fits the bill just perfectly.
Deer tend to sleep during the day – so you may be surprised to look out your window to find a deer (or several) resting under a thicket of shrubs in your own backyard. Creatures of habit like deer may decide to call your home theirs and remain for the rest of their life! If you have a garden they will help themselves to it – as well as any flowers and shrubs you may have planted. If there are multiple deer they could destroy all of it and become unwanted pests.
If you have plenty of space and choose to coexist with these lovely animals that is fine – but be aware that deer carry ticks that transmit Lyme Disease. This confusing disease remains with infected people for life and causes a range of symptoms that make it difficult to diagnose. Lyme Disease causes aching muscles, joint pains, constant fatigue, fever, and headaches. Because of exploding deer populations and more deer encroaching on urban spaces – as many as one million people per year are diagnosed.
There are ways to deter deer from taking residence in your yard – and if you have children or dogs it would be a good idea to keep them out. You can grow plants they don’t like or use commercial deer repellant. If your yard is wooded and you don’t use it much you could just relax and enjoy providing them a safe haven.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © PhotocechCZ/Shutterstock.com
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