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Animal Oddities

As a wildlife artist and an avid outdoorsman, I am obviously very intrigued by wildlife, especially when something new or unusual shows up. I recently read in an outdoor publication about a woman who had taken an unusual buck with a crossbow. The deer had an 18-point rack, but when her husband started to field-dress

As a wildlife artist and an avid outdoorsman, I am obviously very intrigued by wildlife, especially when something new or unusual shows up. I recently read in an outdoor publication about a woman who had taken an unusual buck with a crossbow. The deer had an 18-point rack, but when her husband started to field-dress the deer, he noticed something unusual — it appeared to be a doe and not a buck. They contacted the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and after the mandatory drying period, the rack was officially measured. The deer made it into the Big Game Records book in the nontypical archery category.

Antlered does do occasionally show up, but usually, they will sport relatively small spikes often covered in velvet and certainly not like the 18-pointer in the previous paragraph. According to the biologists, these small antlered does are a result of a testosterone surge, but it’s seldom high enough to produce larger hardened antlers. These does are actually able to produce fawns.

Now here’s where it gets interesting; the rare adult females with hardened antlers are actually males possessing female external genitalia. Male parts might be present but not visible, and it’s unlikely such a deer could produce fawns. Likely the deer mentioned at the beginning of this piece was not a true female, according to the biologists. Hey, I’m just passing on the info I was able to dig up on this unusual situation.

Some other oddities occur in deer, which I’m sure some of us may have spotted on more than one occasion. I’m talking here about a piebald deer which is the result of a genetic abnormality that results in varying amounts of white showing up. Both the male and the female must carry the recessive gene to produce a piebald.

Over the years, I have actually observed piebalds in several locations, including one near my residence many years ago.

It’s believed that only about two percent of the deer population will ever show up as piebalds. Other than the varying amounts of white hair, most of the time, they are normal, but in some cases, shortened legs, misaligned spines, and other mutations can show up.

Piebalds are sometimes mistaken for deer with albinism. Still, true albinism is different in that there is a total lack of body pigment resulting in pink eyes due to the blood vessels behind the lenses showing up through the unpigmented irises. Albinism is a recessive trait, and the buck and the doe must carry the gene before it can be passed on to the offspring, and even then, there is only a one in four chance of an albino fawn. It’s estimated that only one deer in thirty-thousand will show up as an albino.

Probably one of the biggest reasons that we don’t see many piebalds and albinos is because the white makes the deer stand out in most situations, making them more vulnerable to predators. In addition, the two recessive genes must be present.

Another characteristic that can occur in deer and other animals is the opposite of the piebald known as a melanistic deer. In a melanistic deer, more pigment is present, causing the animal to appear darker; this condition is even rarer than albinism.

By the way, while talking about animal oddities, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention bearded hen turkeys. This is a condition that is actually more common, and a number of hunters have actually taken bearded hens in mistake for gobblers. It is believed that about ten percent of all hen turkeys may sport a six to eight-inch or smaller beard.