Title:  Trauma-Induced Malformed Antler Development in Male White-Tailed Deer
Author(s): Gabriel R. Karns, Stephen S. Ditchkoff - Auburn University
Year: 2013
Abstract: Though normal antlers are branched and bilaterally symmetrical, male white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) sometimes develop malformed antlers due to various reasons. As management for antler quality has grown more popular in recent years, spike-on-one-side (SOOS) antler configurations have been repeatedly blamed on inferior genetics by some wildlife managers and much of the general public. We hypothesized that the majority of SOOS antlers are the artifact of injuries to the antlerogenic periosteum region. In a causal investigation of SOOS antler development in male white-tailed deer, we collected 71 SOOS specimens over 2 hunting seasons (2010-2011 and 2011-2012) in Alabama and identified probable cause for malformed antler development. We confidently assigned cause to 62% of specimens, and frequency of skull/pedicle trauma increased with age classes (yearling, 2.5 year old, and >3.5 year old males). It was difficult to determine why yearling males developed SOOS antler traits (30%), but ease of prescription increased with male age (76% for >3.5 year old males). Based on the physiology of skull/pedicle versus skeletal injuries, we recommended different culling strategies for yearling versus adult male white-tailed deer according to management objectives.

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