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Abnormal growth on Oak Bay deer likely caused by injury

While photo diagnosis isn’t conclusive, local vet says tumour or ‘cactus buck’ unlikely
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Oak Bay resident Doug Clarke posted a photo of a male deer with a growth at the bottom of its left antler, taken on May 22 in the Rockland neighbourhood. (Courtesy of Doug Clarke/Facebook)

An abnormal growth on a deer spotted in Oak Bay was likely caused by being hit by an object or another deer, according to a local wildlife veterinarian.

Oak Bay resident Doug Clarke posted a photo of a male deer with a growth at the bottom of its left antler, taken on May 22 in Victoria’s Rockland neighbourhood. While making a definitive diagnosis from a photo is impossible, Dr. Adam Hering, a wildlife veterinarian with the Urban Wildlife Stewardship Society, said the “altered antler growth” most likely happened when the buck was fighting another one.

“Anything that hits or breaks or damages the antler can cause it to grow abnormally, and so that would be the most likely possibility,” Hering said. “Other things that are possible are some kinds of tumors, like a fibroma is definitely a possibility.”

One option posited by several people online was the deer may be suffering from “cactus buck” – an issue with male deer’s testosterone caused by castration (or injury to the relevant area) which leads to the antlers not growing properly.

Hering said its unlikely, as Victoria doesn’t have any population control programs that target males because of those very concerns.

If it does turn out to be cactus buck, the deer’s antlers may stay in their softer velvet stage and not harden as they’re supposed to. If it is cactus buck or a fibroma, the growth could grow again next year and potentially get bigger, which could mean the deer might need some intervention. But that’s unlikely and a long way down the line, according to Hering.

“Next season, maybe it will grow normally, or maybe it will grow abnormally. If the injury is on the skull below the part that grows off, then it might grow an abnormal antler every year for the rest of his life. Then each year, it will probably harden up and fall off,” said Hering.

“I think it’s one of those things that the picture can be a little bit remarkable. But from an animal perspective, it’s probably very routine – it’s just that we happen to see it right now.”

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