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8/3/16- Did You Know??

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by Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properites Wildlife Specialist

Have you ever caught a glimpse of a deer with a leg injury and wondered to yourself how that happened? If you continued to analyze the deer and it was a male, chances are one side of his antlers was deformed as well. This is a common phenomenon in white-tailed deer that cannot be explained.

As luck would have it, I was at the vet the other day and the local veterinarian asked me to come to the back. As I approached the surgery suite, a one week old buck fawn lay on the table, sedated, and the veterinarian was applying splints to both back legs. I asked what happened and the veterinarian proceeded to tell me that this fawn’s daddy was a 300 inch (non-typical I assume) trophy and a local deer farm was desperately trying to correct the fawn’s birth defect. He then told me that the fawn was born with both rear legs facing inward and it caused the rear legs to become immobile. I asked the doctor if he thought this would contribute to the fawn’s antler growth later in life. He looked at me very puzzled. I then explained the phenomenon of contralateral leg injuries and their relation to antler growth in white-tailed deer. Leg injuries in deer can be caused by a number of things from a bad shot by a hunter, an accidental fall in the woods, or a birth defect. As long as this leg injury occurs in one of the hind legs, it will affect the antler growth on the opposite side. It is unknown as to exactly why a contralateral leg injury affects antler growth. Many scientific studies have been performed and although their hypothesis is ultimately correct, a definite answer as to why this happens has not been found. It is believed that the injury is neurologically related to the nerves in the antlers on the contralateral side; how they are related is still up in the air.

As a wildlife enthusiast, this malformation in white-tailed deer is very interesting to me. It is not uncommon to see deer every now and then that have a funky antler. Sometimes it is due to an injury in velvet, but most of the time it is a leg injury in the hind leg. An injury in velvet will be repaired after the next shed, but an antler malformation due to a leg injury continues to become more and more deformed as the deer ages. If you are interested in learning more, QDMA and google scholar have scientific papers as well as pictures proving this phenomenon.


By: Red Clay

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