Joe McHugh was one of several readers who asked: The picture in The Baltimore Sun on Dec. 13 showed a huge 25-point, nontypical buck that was still in velvet. I had never seen a deer still in velvet this late in the season. Is this common? Is there any explanation? (Please don't say global warming and/or El Nino.) More information on this phenomenon would be truly appreciated.
Outdoors Girl replies: My mantra is: "Everyone should have a personal biologist." I am lucky to have lots of them. In this case, I've turned to my Men of Science: the Department of Natural Resources' Brian Eyler and George Timko, who enlisted a colleague, Kevin Keel, a veterinarian at the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine. But first, a few more details on the buck in question, which was shot at the Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel. It was at least 3 1/2 years old, weighed 154 pounds and had 12 points on the left side and 13 on the right. The inside spread was 14.96 inches, and the outside was 18.11 inches. The beam length was 17.9 inches (left) and 16.9 inches (right). Take it away, MOS!
Men of Science: The most likely cause of persistent velvet is the failure of testosterone levels to increase. Folks with captive deer or wildlife rehabilitators who castrate deer can cause problems for this reason. In some cases, the antlers will continue to grow and form a tumorlike mass. These can even become infected or interfere with vision and cause other problems. In addition to accidental castration, infection or inflammation in the testicles might be another cause. If you Google "cactus bucks," you can find some other examples.