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Bob-tailed Deer

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION: Bob, I've noticed over the past couple of years that a few of the bucks roaming my property in Eastern Pennsylvania have short, stubby tails. I attached a photo of one. Does fighting cause this, or is it a genetic trait? - P.H.A.

Bob-tailed DeerANSWER: Your question gave me a chuckle. Several years ago I inadvertently "removed" a deer's tail (see attached picture). However, that was in South Carolina, so I doubt it's the same deer.

If I'm judging by this lone photo, I might suspect it's merely an illusion caused by a foreshortened camera angle. The buck's tail is held upright, nearly horizontal and at a very sharp angle to the camera. This angle could make a normal tail appear shorter. 

Bob-tailed DeerHowever, if you've seen several different bucks with stub tails there must be something else going on here.

Several things could account for a bob-tailed whitetail.

I suppose a buck could lose its tail from a fight, though I imagine that would be extremely rare and certainly not something you'd see with multiple deer.

The same goes for an interaction with a predator. It might happen, but you'd likely only encounter an isolated instance on your property.

Given that you're seeing this phenomenon on several different deer in the same area, I strongly suspect genetics.

I'm curious to know if you're also seeing bob-tailed does. Please keep us posted!

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