Ask The Biologist

Bucks Are Tough, But...

Bucks Are Tough, But...

By Bob Humphrey

Whitetails can survive serious injuries, but some don’t leave much hope.

QUESTION: Do you believe this buck will ever recover? My main concern is infection or damage to his brain. The buck has been injured approximately two weeks and is still active and feeding but I’m concerned this injury may cause him to decline. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

ANSWER: It’s possible, but highly unlikely he will recover. While it’s difficult to tell from the photos, it looks like a pretty severe injury, probably as a result of combat. The antler appears to be still attached to the pedicel, which means the bones of the skull have probably been broken.

The real problem is what’s known as a brain abscess. This occurs when bacteria infect the injured area. In some cases, where infection is confined to the skull, an animal can fight off the infection. However, once bacteria reach the brain cavity, it’s usually just a matter of time before the deer succumbs to the infection or becomes too weak to fend off predators.

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