The Strange Story of Cactus Bucks

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Cactus Bucks

Ever seen a massive buck during the season that still had its velvet? Sometimes these are called cactus bucks and they have an interesting history.

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, cactus bucks are male deer with antlers with abnormal growth patterns that retain the velvet due to alterations in testosterone level usually as a result of testicular trauma, undescended testicles or from the effects of disease affecting the blood supply to the testicles.

They said these animal soften have multiple short misshapen points and excess “globs” of velvet hanging from their antlers giving rise to the name “cactus buck”. These animals also have small or unapparent testicles.

i. Testosterone plays a significant role in antler growth and shedding of velvet. Animals with direct injury to the testicles may also show similar signs. Some deer may also have testicular developmental abnormalities such as cryptorchidism (where one or both testiclesdon’t descend).

ii. Trauma to the pedicle: Occasionally one antler has less branching or points in an odd direction because the base of the antler (pedicle) has been damaged by trauma.

iii. Damage to an antler in velvet:Trauma to the antler at this growing stage can alter the growth and symmetry of antler.

iv: Injury to an extremity: Often an antlered animal can have stunted or abnormal antler growth on the opposite side of a front or hind leg injury due to an incompletely known mechanism but may be related to nervous and vascular regeneration being focused on different tissue.

Officials with the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) note the tarsal glands of cryptorchid bucks are rarely stained because the bucks do not rub-urinate.

Also, QDMA officials note the necks of cryptorchid bucks do not swell as the breeding season approaches. Reproductively, they are in neutral. Antlers are not shed, and they remain in velvet year round. Furthermore, the antlers continue to grow as the animal matures.

TF&G Staff

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