Warning: Some people might find the photos below disturbing.
What forensic scientists accidentally discovered about deer during an experiment has left many people baffled and slightly horrified.
Forensic scientists at the Forensic Anthropology Research Facility (FARF) in San Marcos, Texas left a body in the facility's wooded area to better understand what happens during and after decomposition.
They set up motion-sensitive cameras to monitor the decomposition and any scavengers that may leave their marks on the human remains. They expected to see the usual culprits: foxes, turkey vultures, raccoons and coyotes.
But in January 2015, they witnessed a white-tailed deer standing near the skeleton, chomping on a human rib bone.
According to their findings published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, this is the first known evidence of a deer scavenging human bones.
Although it's not the first time deer have dined outside their usual vegetarian diet, this is definitely the first time anyone has proof that they actually tamper with human remains. Deer have been seen eating fish, bats and even dead rabbits.
Popular Science reports that deer and other herbivores may occasionally consume flesh to get minerals that may not be readily available to them in the wintertime.
The discovery will help forensic scientists in future investigations that involve corpses that have been tampered with by scavengers. Now they can add deer dining to the list.
The study explains that, unlike carnivores, deer seek out dry bones of long-deceased animals. They cause the most damage to the ends of the bone, making zigzag motions with their jaws that leave a "stripped, forked pattern in the bone."
Knowing that these marks come from deer teeth could help to solve a particularly mangled crime scene. Don't worry though, as long as they're well fed, the deer you meet at a petting zoo won't chomp off a finger.