Ask The Biologist

To Pee or Not to Pee?

To Pee or Not to Pee?

By Bob Humphrey

There is no concrete answer to this question, but it’s likely okay.

QUESTION: I know you’ve probably had this question before but can deer tell the difference between human and deer urine? –Marc S.

ANSWER: We really don’t know exactly what deer perceive through their sense of smell or how they interpret scent, but we know they have a pretty advanced olfactory system. Biologists speculate deer can determine all kinds of things from one whiff of deer urine, including the sex, health, dominance and possibly even individual identity of the deer that left it.

Given that, it seems reasonable to assume they can tell the difference between their urine and that of other mammals like humans, coyotes, foxes, bears, porcupines and squirrels.

A better question is: Does it matter? They’re probably a tad more wary around the scent of something they detect as a predator or potential danger like wolves, coyotes and bears. They certainly associate human scent with danger, but we really don’t know if that applies to human urine.

There’s evidence to suggest, and my personal experience has been, that they do not react negatively to the odor of human urine. In some cases they might even be attracted by it.

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