Franken-fauna only threatens gardens, not health

Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018 11:20 PM
A ‘cactus buck’ displays his knobby noggin in a pasture in the Animas Valley. Deformed antlers could be a result of injury, a testosterone problem or a gnat-borne virus.

Here’s a photo of a deer taken north of town. Yikes! Do you suppose this deer has been camping on our uranium mill tailings or lapping up heavy metals from the Animas River? Sign me, “The Velvet Fog,” unless I’m the only one who has ever heard of Mel Torme ... BTW, not a fan of him!

Speaking of not being a fan, Action Line has a well-known beef with deer. More than once has Action Line called these garden-destroying pests “rats with hooves.”

But not everyone agrees with that pithy epithet.

Many people fawn over fawns. They find deer to be dear.

Thus, you frequently hear unctuous ungulate utterings, particularly from urbanites.

Of course, a newcomer’s opinion shifts abruptly after the first vehicle-destroying wildlife collision or a family dog being trampled by an antlered interloper.

No matter your point of view, we can all agree that wildlife should not suffer.

So what’s up with this Franken-fauna or Buck-zilla or whatever it may be? Is this nodule-noggin creature in trouble or (gasp!) contagious?

When it comes to wildlife questions, you don’t have to hunt around for an answer.

That’s because our good friend Joe Lewandowski is the ace spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. With Joe, the buck stops here.

“We get calls from time to time from panicky people asking, ‘OMG what is this nasty growth?’ But it’s not something to worry about,” he assured.

“It’s part of nature, and you’re not at risk of getting a cluster of fuzzy warts on your forehead.”


In the wildlife world, these odd-looking deer are nicknamed “cactus bucks,” Joe said.

Antler anomalies have many causes, but they typical fall into one of three scenarios:

The first is an injury to the “pedicle,” the stubby thing from which antlers grow.

On the other hand, the carbuncle things could be caused by a hormonal problem.

“Testosterone plays an important part in controlling antler growth and development,” reads a CPW briefing paper. “Deer with abnormally developed, undescended or injured testicles can develop abnormal antler growth and/or retained velvet.”

It’s common for cactus bucks to not shed their antlers.

The third cause could be the “epizootic hemorrhagic disease” or EHD.

Deer that have this virus “also can have lesions affecting the testicle which can result in abnormal antler development,” the briefing paper states.

EHD is spread by midges, or tiny biting insects.

“In dry years, we see more of a concentration of the infected midges around water sources. We may see more EHD cases because of the drought,” Joe said.

He added that infected bucks might be sterile and can live with the disease.

Again, Joe wanted to take the sting out of EHD. Midges don’t transmit the virus to humans, so there’s no need for natty gnat-proof netting.

However, if you see a weird-antlered deer struggling or in pain, call CPW so biologists can investigate.

Joe also wanted to warn Action Line’s dear readers to be careful. Mother deer are off-put when you approach offspring. Injuries from a doe attack can cost a lot of dough.

Don’t dote on a doe or you’ll be saying “D’oh!”

Email questions to or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can ask for anonymity if the stench of freshly applied Liquid Fence is the smell of victory.