By Judy Reed
Two hunters were surprised this week when the antlered “bucks” they shot on opening day were missing something important—the body parts that identify them as males.
But even rarer than shooting a hermaphrodite or possible doe with antlers was the fact that they both were taken in the same area.
“We rarely see deer come into the check station with this type of irregularity,” said Sara Schaefer, DNRE wildlife supervisor for southwest Michigan. “I can only think of seeing one other in my career.”
According to research by the Minnesota DNR, they estimated the chance of a white-tailed doe growing antlers is one in 6,000.
Both Charles Navitskas, of Cedar Springs, and Jerry White, of Allendale, hunted east of Cedar Springs on opening day last week, and both brought down deer that still had velvet on their antlers. Researchers have noted that females can have a testosterone surge caused by a hormone imbalance, first pregnancy, tumors, or degenerative conditions of the ovaries or adrenal glands. This single surge can cause the growth of antlers in velvet. But if they don’t have the male organs, or if they are underdeveloped, they won’t get the second surge of testosterone in the late summer or early fall that causes the antlers to harden and the deer to rub them off.
It’s unclear whether the deer were antlered does, males that were undeveloped, or true hermaphrodites. Navitskas’s deer had some female anatomy, while the White deer was missing its testicles.
The Post asked Schaefer if something in the environment might cause this to happen. “It is true that environmental contaminants can increase the occurrence of genetic malfunctions. The potential is there, but I don’t know of any significant environmental factors in Kent County,” she noted.
There are some geographical areas where this anomaly happens more often. In Pennsylvania, about one in 3,500 are antlered does; and in Alberta, Canada, about one in 64. According to the Minnesota DNR article, that could be because every harvested deer was examined, or because there was a genetic predisposition for female antler growth.
Whatever the reason, the DNRE said they won’t be checking into or visiting our area to find a possible cause. “It does not have any adverse affect at the population level,” she explained. “At this point it is (just) a human interest story.”