Do deers pant when they sense water?

You probably heard the hymn being sung at a church:

“As the deer pants for the water

So my soul longs after you

You alone are my heart’s desire

And I long to worship you.”

This might make you wonder why deers pant for water.

Deers don’t pant for water. They pant as a mechanism to cool down. Deers breathe rapidly to excrete excess heat out of their body.

Deers also seek water sources to remove their scent after escaping a predator. This is why deer often pant near water sources.

Table of Contents

Do deers pant when they sense water?

Why do deers need water?

Deers will often have abundant free water and still drink only a little. This is because the need for water for deer changes throughout the year.

Deers mainly need water for 3 reasons:

Drinking water:

Deers don’t need much water for drinking. They mainly ingest water from the food they eat. However, their need for drinking water is more significant during winter as their diet is primarily dry food. Thus, they need to search for water.

Cooling down:

Deers will herd near a large body of water during spring and summer. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t so for drinking. They do it for cooling down. Moreover, they pant to excrete body heat. This is also probably why many people think deers pant for water.

Washing off:

Deers will often look for water bodies to wash off their scent. This is to ward off predators who might hunt them. They can hide their scent from predators by washing their bodies in clean water.


How do deers find water?

To humans, water is both odourless and tasteless, but that is not true for deer. This is because humans have weaker sensory systems than most animals.

A deer’s sense of smell is very keen. It can sense a body of water from about a quarter of a mile away.

It’s not that scent of water that deers are attracted to but rather the associated scents. These are the scents of wet leaves, grasses, and sand.

Deer mainly have 3 sources of water:

sources of water

Free water:

Free water is in live streams, ponds, watering holes, etc. They drink only a small amount of water as a supplement.

Performed water:

This is water found in the food that a deer eats. The availability changes with the time of the year. Deers usually have a more herbaceous diet with high water content in spring and summer. During winter, they eat old leaves, buds, etc, which have less water, so they look for other water sources.

Metabolic water:

This is water released from the body after complete digestion of oxidized carbohydrates, fat, and protein in plants.

deers pant

When water is scarce

Water becomes scarce when there is a drought, and the water bodies dry out or when it is freezing, and the water bodies freeze up.

Deers get their daily water requirements during a drought from their food and metabolism.

Unfortunately, droughts are followed by famine, too, so deer usually eat up dry food and their need for free water increases.

They can also not wash off or cool down, so the deers are constantly panting.

This is why, during a drought, deer are on a constant move. They travel all over the drylands to stray away from predators in search of food and pursuit of a water body.

When they find a water body, they rest at it for a few days to replenish it, cool it off, and wash it off.

When water is frozen in winter, drought isn’t as tricky a condition. This is because deer can find water in various food sources during winter.

Deers can’t have acorns, buds, and green needles within them. They even eat live bark off of hemlock and white cedar trees.

Deers can recycle their urine and dry their faeces internally to conserve water.

Deers don’t pant much as they need to conserve body heat.

Related: When Do Deer Sleep

Water For Deer To Drink & When/Is It Needed?

Final word

The next time you see a deer panting and someone tells you it’s probably thirsty, know that that is not the case.

Panting and a deer being thirsty are not correlated. It’s more of a causation relationship between the two cases.

When a deer is feeling hot, it pants, and at the same time, it also requires water. So, a deer’s panting is followed by drinking water.

But this doesn’t mean a deer pants for water.

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