Weird Whitetail: Deer with White Eyes

canadian white eye deer

A few years ago a Canadian hunter sent me this…

Mike: I thought this would be right up your alley since you like cool and unusual deer stuff. That is what makes your web page so great.

I harvested this buck outside of Dryden, Ontario. He had white eyes! His eyes where not fogged over with cataracts or anything, and I can assure you he was not blind. They were just white, devoid of color. His hide was not piebald, although it was a little lighter than some. But except for the eyes, the deer was normal looking and acted normal.

Have you or any of the blog readers ever seen this type of eye coloring on a deer? Thanks, Bryan

I’ve never seen a deer with white eyes, but I did a little research and here’s what I found out.

white eyed deer

The white-eyed deer was most likely suffering from what is known as “ocular albinism,” a melanin-related deficiency that affects some humans and animals. Melanin in the eyes is the agent that is responsible for most human and animal eyes being brown. A lack of melanin in the eyes, which this buck likely had, results in ocular albinism and the white eyes.

white eye deer mount use

Do Deer Feed On Dead Human Bodies?

deer eatingSuppose a hiker or a hunter gets lost in the woods, dies and is not found for months. Or some thug murders a guy and dumps the body in a remote area.

Sure, a fox, coyote, bear or vulture or other scavenger would pick the body. But would a deer eat the decaying remains too?

Sounds absurd, but…

From an Abstract published in the Journal of Forensic Science:

Herein, we report on the first known photographic evidence of deer gnawing human remains. As described in nonhuman scavenging literature, forking of the bone characterizes the taphonomic effect of deer gnawing in this case, which is distinct from the effect caused by other scavengers. This type of osteophagia during the winter season is consistent with previously documented behavior of deer gnawing on nonhuman bone, possibly to obtain minerals absent in their diet.

Popular Science reports that in July 2014 scientists placed a human body in the woods of the 26-acre Forensic Anthropology Research Facility in Texas and set up wildlife cameras near it. (One of the most intriguing things I learned from the POPSCI story is that there are facilities in the U.S. dedicated to studying the decay of donated human remains, and sometimes their work involves leaving corpses outside to rot in order to better understand what happens during and after decomposition.)

On 2 different days in January 2015 they got 2 different pictures of a young deer standing near the carcass with a rib bone “sticking out of its mouth like a cigar.” They can’t say for sure if it’s the same deer, but studying the cam images it looks like it to me.)

The images are the first documented evidence of a deer scavenging human bones, likely to get a taste of phosphorus, salt, and calcium.

The treasure trove of whitetail data that we continue to amass here on BIG DEER is amazing!

(Deer photo credit U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

Georgia: 2 Big-Nose Bullwinkle Bucks

Here at Big Deer Blog we’ve become fascinated by whitetails with unusually big noses, and we’ve committed to building the biggest database of these unusual deer that have been shot across North America.

“Bullwinkle” syndrome was first discovered around 2005.  The few scientists who have examined deer with swollen snouts say the condition results from chronic inflammation of tissue in the nose, mouth and upper lip. All the cases studied by researchers have shown similar colonies of bacteria in the inflamed tissues.

How deer acquire Bullwinkle syndrome is unknown. The affliction doesn’t appear to be fatal to the deer, but there are many unknowns.

Bullwinkle syndrome is very rare.

We’ve documented big-nose bucks from Michigan to Minnesota to Alabama and other states. These are the first ones we’ve reported on from Georgia.

georgia big nose ty 2015

Via Twitter Ty Dickey sent me the info on this Bullwinkle he shot in Washington County, Georgia during the 2015 season:

We had pictures of him from ’13 and ’14. Bullwinkle’s snout was very pronounced originally, but once he got healthier (we started an intensive management program on the land) it wasn’t as noticeable. I started updating Lindsay Thomas at QDMA and Charlie Killmaster at Georgia DNR, and they asked if we’d allow the DNR to have the deer if harvested. We did so and it’s my understanding they determined there were no health issues with the deer except the snout.

Bullwinkle weighed 240 lbs. when harvested, and that was way down from pre-rut pics that year. He was aged at 5.5. He was the dominant buck on the property and visited every feeder regularly. We’ve seen no other issues with any other deer and the herd is extremely healthy.

Health-wise this is typical with the other big-nose deer we’ve reported on. Still, while the deer may act and look fine, except for the engorged snout, you should not eat the meat until more is known about this syndrome.

Come to find out, Ty’s buck was the second-known Bullwinkle ever shot in Georgia.  Luther Covington killed the third-known one in Irwin County, also in 2015.

georgia big nose luther

DNR biologist Charlie Killmaster saw this buck too and said, “This is a very classic case of the Bullwinkle disease. It’s exceedingly rare.”

A necropsy was performed on Luther’s deer, and it was diagnosed with the Bullwinkle disease caused by a bacterial infection around the muzzle that leads to the swollen appearance. The actual bacterium that causes this condition is extremely difficult to identify and therefore still has not been detected.

Like Ty’s deer, Luther’s buck was big-bodied and weighed more than 200 pounds.

Biologists know that Ty’s and Luther’s Bullwinkles were bucks, but it’s unclear what the sex of Georgia’s first big-nose deer was. Thus, it’s unclear if the disease will affect does as it does bucks.

The fact that scientists were able to examine both these big-nose Georgia bucks is excellent! On the off-chance you shoot one a doe or buck with a swollen snout, contact your state DNR immediately. Save the head for a biologist to examine so we can learn more about these rare and interesting deer.

If you or any one you know has shot a big-nose deer, or maybe has a trail-cam picture of one, let me know so I can add it to the database.

Whitetail Dispersal: How and Where Button Bucks Find Home Ranges

button buckIn the early 2000s researchers with Penn State University College of Agricultural Sciences captured and radio-collared 543 bucks, 454 of which were less than 1 year old when captured in the winter. Of particular interest: How and where the young bucks would “disperse” in the summer and fall.

In this Deer-Forest blog post, the researchers explained: Dispersal is a one-time movement from a natal (where born) home range to a different adult home range. For our research (and most studies) we say an animal disperses if there is no overlap between natal and adult home ranges.

So what did they find?

*About 75% of the bucks dispersed as 1-year-olds. Half the dispersal occurred in spring (May-June) and the rest in early autumn (September-October).

*The average dispersal distance for a buck was about 5 miles, but one yearling went 25 miles!

*The dispersal process is fast and furious process. Half the bucks dispersed to their new home range in less than 12 hours, and almost all of them reached their new home in 24 hours.

Some more findings are fascinating!

They had GPS collars on 9 young males and were able to obtain locations every 2.5 hours. On a scale of 0 (random movement) to 10 (straight line) these bucks scored an 8.1. In other words, when the dispersal bug hits them, most yearling bucks move quickly and in a fairly straight line to the new home range where they will spend their lives.

More cool info: The researchers found that in the ridge and valley region of central Pennsylvania where the study occurred, deer are likely to disperse parallel to the ridges. Also, roads and rivers have an impact. A deer is more likely to disperse away from a road and more likely to stop his dispersal movement before crossing a road big or small.

Finally, the researchers note that if you see a button buck on your property next month, there is a 75% chance he’ll be gone by this fall’s archery season. Conversely, if you see a young buck with his first set of antlers in the archery season, there is a 75% chance he came from somewhere else, 5 or more miles away.

How Deer Antlers Grow

July28,2005StickerBuckRiverBankVelvet010(2)

In April, as the days continue to get longer and daylight increases, new antlers begin to grow from buds that form on the pedicels on a buck’s head. Typically within a month, main beams and brow tines begin to sprout and split off. A month or so later, in early June, second and third tines will form.

Throughout early summer, the fledgling racks grow fast and furious. Antler tissue is the fastest growing tissue known to man. Beams and tines may grow a quarter-inch or more per day, the process driven by a buck’s hormones and the photoperiod of the days.

According to Missouri scientist Dr. Grant Woods, a buck’s rack will show most of its points by mid-June, though tine length is typically less than half developed at this time. Most of the beam length will grow by late June.

Those are the general rules, but Grant points out that the growth of individual racks can vary. “Some bucks will show a lot of antler growth early, while others seem to add a bunch to their rack during July,” he says. The photo above was taken on July 28 a few years ago.

Click for more interesting facts about summer antlers.

In early August antlers begin to morph from soft and pliable to hardened bone. “A buck’s antlers will change from looking swollen or bulbous at the tips of the tines to a more normal diameter,” notes Woods. “Once this change in appearance occurs the buck won’t add much beam or tine growth.”

By mid-August most of the antler growth for the year is done. Sometime between September 1 and 15 bucks shed the velvet. The cue for antler hardening and velvet shedding is the change in photoperiod caused by decreasing daylight and increasing darkness, which results in a significant increase in the bucks’ testosterone.

Velvet shedding typically takes only a couple of hours, though it is not uncommon to see a deer walking around for day or two with bloody velvet tatters. Bucks have been known to turn their heads and peel or even eat the dry velvet off their new racks.

Mid-September on, the tree rubbing and antler-polishing begin. With their new crowns gleaming, mature bucks are ready and willing to breed the does for the next three months, until the days grow shorter and their testosterone begins to fade and the fascinating antler cycle begins all over again.