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Ask The Biologist: Button Bucks

Back To  "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION: Hi! My name is Albert Jenkins from Markleysburg, Pa. I am 12 years old. I was wondering if you could tell me if a button buck loses his little antlers the same as a buck that has regular antlers.

ANSWER: The short answer is "no" because a true button buck does not have antlers. The skull of a buck is different from that of a doe in that it has bony pedicels — permanent structures upon which the antlers grow every year. By his first fall (age 1⁄2 or so), these bony pedicels have developed to the point where they become distinguishable on a buck fawn’s head.

They may be merely tufts of hair, or patches (buttons) of hard, leathery skin. Later, they begin growing as regular antlers and will continue to grow until the buck’s second summer. Then, circulation is cut off, the bone dies, velvet sheds and the yearling buck carries his antlers for the first time. Some time after that, he will shed them. Barring injury of disease, he will continue to shed them annually.

In rare cases, a buck fawn may develop tiny antlers that protrude through the buttons. In this case, they would be shed. Also, in areas of very poor nutrition and/or with erratic age and sex ratios, yearling bucks (age 1 1⁄2) may sport only rudimentary bony spikes or nubs. Those are normally shed during the winter.

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