Deer Anatomy – Glands

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Whitetails have a network of glands all over their body. The forehead or pre-orbital gland is used for signposting during the breeding season. Biologists believe that when a buck rubs a tree, he deposits forehead scent on it. The nasal gland is used primarily to keep a deer’s nose moist. This gland may serve other functions, such as marking a scrape’s licking branch, but more research is needed.


Interdigital glands are located on a deer’s feet. Wherever a deer treads, he leaves a small amount of scent. Over time, these scents may actually form a trail. A buck or doe may cut the scent trail and figure it is safe to travel since other deer walked there without harm.


The metatarsal glands, located on the outside of a deer’s legs, give off scent that warns other deer of danger. Deer know to flee an area the instant they whiff this scent.


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The tarsal gland, located on the inside of the hind legs, is probably the most important. A buck utilizes these glands for a process called rub-urination. A buck rubs his tarsal glands together while urinating over them, often into a scrape. This urine contains important clues about the deer’s social status and physical condition. Bucks rub-urinate to establish their place in the herd. Bucks tend to rub-urinate the most during the breeding season, which suggests the tarsal glands play a big role in mating. Some does rub-urinate. Does are able to recognize their fawns by the smell of their tarsal glands.


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