Ask The Biologist

Non-Binary Buck

Non-Binary Buck

By Bob Humphrey

It’s not likely antlered does are a result of genetics.

QUESTION: I harvested this antlered doe in southern Alabama. I didn’t realize what I had until my processor called a few minutes later. I’m curious to know if this deer could have possibly let other deer breed her or if she had such high testosterone levels that she socialized more like a buck would have. I’ve read that it’s rare to harvest a deer like this, so I’m curious of the possibility that there may be one or more offspring in the area with her same genetics.

ANSWER: Biologists put the odds of a true antlered doe – an adult female whitetail sporting antlers – at around 0.01% or 1 in 10,000. Their antlers are typically small, often misshapen and ordinarily covered in velvet. This rarity is most often caused by an excess of testosterone, although the individuals lack sufficient testosterone to allow antlers to complete the growth process and harden.

Biologists do not believe this malady is related to genetics, so there’s little likelihood of an antlered doe’s offspring exhibiting this trait.

More often, what appears to be an antlered doe turns out to be either a true hermaphrodite (a deer with both male and female organs, but the male organs are faint and/or not outwardly identifiable); or a pseudohermaphrodite, also know as cryptorchid, (a deer with internal male organs that are not easily identifiable). In either case, the testes do not descend but remain within the body cavity. They still produce enough testosterone so the animal can grow a full rack of branched antlers that eventually harden and are later shed.

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