The animal kingdom is very cut-throat when dealing with adaption and survival-of-the-fittest, but the food web is a lot more intricate. Prey can become predator, bright colors indicate danger, camouflage becomes a way of life to stay hidden and scare off enemies. One of the strangest animal occurrences comes from the kingdom of herbivores, the unassuming plant eaters of the world. Rather than defining them as animals that only survive off of plants and other forms of vegetation, they instead should be defined as an opportunistic carnivore.
Scientifically speaking, the opportunistic carnivore is somewhat like an omnivore but is more based on survival, limitations, and opportunity. While carnivores only eat meat so their survival continues, the herbivore does not just eat plants for the taste or satisfaction. Instead, herbivores eat because of their limitations on speed and what actually is easily available to them in nature. The winter season is when the opportunistic carnivores show their colors. With a limited amount of food and vegetation to graze on, dead animals and small unassuming creatures become prey to normal carnivores and a few types of herbivores.
Such a discovery in herbivores show that said animals are very adaptable to the environment pertaining to food. Carnivores as a whole can only survive off of flesh and are unable to correctly take nutrients from other sources. on an evolutionary scale, they are more susceptible to extinction through lack of prey and cannibalism. Omnivores are able to utilize both plants and animals but evolution has made it necessary for some forms of both for a healthy diet. Herbivores on the other hand take nutrients from the core of the earth with the least amount of contaminants, which many other animals cannot do (eating grass and shrubs). They also take into account that eating other animals and cannibalism can also be in their diet depending of the situation and availability. If there is a weakened animal within range of an herbivore, there is a chance that said herbivore may or may not eat it.
Some animals that have been caught on camera demonstrating this specific type of behavior, are cattle and an assortment of deer. These grazing animals have many documented videos of carelessly eating birds and small mammals, whether they are hungry or just wanting a snack. And as deer are curious by nature, it has been also documented that a hunter’s fresh kill will be scavenged off of first by the local deer. Carcasses and small animals hold the same value to an opportunistic carnivore just as grass and leaves do. As for the cattle, since they are domesticated, one of the main occurrences of eating flesh comes from any types of chickens in their pen. On such occurrence happened when a baby chicken crept too close to a cow and said cow swooped down, eating the chick like any trough or hay stack.
Further research on why deer in particular eat meat is attributed to the need for certain nutrients to help grow antlers. Growing antlers sometimes takes too long or does not grow to their full potential without additional foods in a deer’s diet. Such cases have occurred with the red deer in Scotland. It came to the local’s’ attention when there was an overabundance of bird killings because the deer needed minerals like calcium, not available in plants.
Now seeing cute animals in the wild may make people have second thoughts. Just because they look docile and nice means nothing if they are hungry enough. If deer can mutilate cars, they can most definitely kill a human with antlers and hooves. Cute and cuddly…more like the white rabbit from Monte Python.