Friday, March 1, 2013

Deer Skull Questions

Once in a while, while camera-trapping, working, or walking, I'll stumble across the remains of an animal that has been long dead.

Usually it is deer that I find.  This one is an interesting of example that harbors so many questions to me.

First and foremost, how did this young buck die? Of course it could have been natural causes, but could it have been mortally wounded in a fight with another buck?  Was it the prey of another species of animal?  Did it get shot by a poacher who couldn't track the deer after shooting it?  Or, did it spend its last moments of life in a street as cars were speeding by, waiting for a chance to get to the other side?

Another question I am asking myself is, "how did the antlers form this way?"
Without DNA testing and other genetic tests, it is hard to tell what exactly caused the differentiation of the shape and size of the antlers.

Genetics is only one explanation of this anomaly though.  The young buck could have had other testosterone deficiencies that are not genetically related.  It could have also broken part of the shorter antler during the earliest periods of its growth, such as in a fight with another buck.  Maybe it tripped and fell as a fawn, making its antler indent a certain way.  It could have some kind of disease contracted from other deer, the environment, or even a genetic disease.

There are so many explanations to as why deer antlers may grow this way.  Just looking at the skull and antlers from all directions is an extremely difficult way to tell what caused this in the antlers.

One thing is sure though.  If this buck did have a genetic disease or problem, it is dead now.  Since it is dead, it can no longer pass these genes to potential offspring.  

Nature continues to take its course in northern Virginia.


  1. May I offer a thought? I've been told that if a deer shows a deficient side to the rack, there may have been a fairly sufficient injury to the opposite side of the body. Don't know if that holds any truth...but there ya go!

    1. That's exactly what I've heard. I was doing a little research of camera trap studies or before and after pics or anything like that but couldn't find any. I wonder if it has anything to do with the deer's body trying to balance its weight out or if it is a testosterone balance type of thing.

  2. We had three different yearling bucks on our game cam with antler anomalies last year. All three had one antler, and one's antler was in the middle of its forehead like a unicorn's horn. We didn't see the deer in person and they showed up on the cam only once each. The deer with an antler in the middle of its forehead will be that way all its life, I assume.

    I found your blog on Outdoor Blogger Network this morning and subscribed. Very interesting!

    1. Robin,
      First and foremost, thank you for the comment and for subscribing!

      This deer information is really interesting. I've never seen an antler grow like a unicorn before. Were these deer white-tailed deer?