Ask The Biologist

Short By a Nose

Short By a Nose

By Bob Humphrey

It’s natural for whitetails to exhibit different physical traits ... to a point.

QUESTION: Are there two different types of deer bred in Jackson County, Alabama? We are seeing deer with very short noses. We got one this morning that has a short nose and didn’t have a tooth in its head. We were thinking that the short-nosed deer were young, but that deer disproves that thought. We have several on trail cameras with the short noses with deer with longer noses in the same photos.

ANSWER: It’s tough to say without examining the deer or at least seeing pictures. Individual deer, like humans or most any mammal, will exhibit subtle variations in morphology. Some might be short and fat, others tall and skinny; and some might have shorter noses than others.

Genetic mutation might also cause an unusually short nose on an adult deer, and younger deer have shorter noses than older ones, which makes nose length one characteristic to distinguish a fawn from an adult late in the hunting season.

Since you mentioned the deer did not have any teeth. If you are referring only to upper incisors (top, front teeth), deer don’t have any, so it could have been a fawn or an adult. If it lacked, or more likely had badly worn molars, it could have been a very old deer and the short nose was some sort of mutation.

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