Mother Nature Can’t be Outwitted (Part 3): ‘The Other Genetics’

Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager, said it isn’t clear whether the additional positives indicate a westward expansion of the disease or individual deer movements, given that all the presumptive positive deer were adult males.

Not long ago, I began a blog series about my thoughts on the widespread notion that wildlife managers are able to manipulate antler-determining genetics in a deer herd by targeting individual bucks that present undesirable antler characteristics. This practice is referred to as, “selective culling.”

Essentially, the thought is that by eradicating a specific buck due to his lack of antler potential, you are also eliminating the opportunity for him to pass on those “inferior” qualities to any future offspring.

Previously, I’ve discussed, “the spike debate,” as well as the fact that the dam contributes just as much, if not more, to her male offspring’s antler development than the sire – environmentally and genetically. But, what about “other genetics?” I can tell you that they are rarely considered.

According to Dr. Steve Ditchkoff, professor at the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University, there are other genetics that have nothing to do with antlers but can hugely impact the development and outcome of a buck’s rack.

For example, “the immune system doesn’t code for antlers, but deflects pathogenic challenges which affect antler characteristics,” said Ditchkoff.

While the science is multi-faceted, pathogenic influences can begin on a cellular level during fetal development. Many diseases can be transmitted through birth matter. So, if a doe has or is the carrier of any given disease that can be transferred via placenta, then there’s a good possibility that she will transmit the responsible pathogen to her offspring, either in-utero, or though environmental contamination after birth. A disease-causing pathogen, or any magnitude, can be a hindrance on the quality of antler growth, and life in general. These pathogenic challenges are just another example of how non-genetic circumstances can create adverse outcomes.

Tumors, injuries, and cranial abscesses are also examples of environmental influences that have no bearing on genetics but can negatively impact a buck’s rack. The buck may have otherwise donned antlers of a superstar, but if his rack no longer outwardly reflects those favorable genetics, he may be targeted. This reiterates that by not considering the environmental dynamic, a superior buck, and his DNA, could be eliminated.

This is an ongoing blog series on a vast and complex topic. Stay tuned for future follow-ups. Up next: “The Heritability Clause.”

Read more about deer culling and biology in the July 28 issue of Illinois Outdoor News.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Illinois – Keri Butt, Whitetail Deer

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