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‘One in a million’ deer captured on camera in Michigan woods

Former state representative and nature photographer Steve Lindberg snapped a photo of a three-antlered deer Nov. 10 near his home in Marquette, Mich. (Video: WLUC TV 6)

A retired Michigan legislator went into the woods to capture wildlife. He ended up with images of a rare three-antlered deer.

Steven Lindberg, 75, was out walking with his Shih Tzu-bichon frise mix in the woods near his home in Marquette, Mich., over the weekend. He has made a habit of taking along his camera while exercising his beloved pup, Max, he said.

Lindberg had taken some pictures of a river otter earlier in the walk, which the amateur photographer was happy about, he said.

“It’s kind of hard to find something different to take a picture of,” he said of his wildlife photography hobby. “Then, I spotted this deer.

He didn’t realize the buck had three antlers when he was taking its picture because trying to capture a moving subject with the backdrop of the outdoors can be challenging, he said.

The unusual deer didn’t mind his photo shoot, as he was more interested in a nearby doe lying down in the woods. The buck was very watchful of her, Lindberg said.

“I was moving around trying to get a better perspective of him,” he said. “If I got too close to her, he wasn’t too happy.”

He snapped dozens of photos of the deer with his camera and telephoto lens, but Lindberg said he never got the perfect picture.

It wasn’t until he got home and uploaded the images onto his computer that he realized what he had captured. He had never seen an animal like that.

Keeping with his 2013 New Year’s resolution to upload an image a day to Facebook, the former Michigan State House member posted his rare find to his account.

He moved on to posting other images in the following days. But the Internet was still hung up on his deer image, which received hundreds of shares and was written about by the Detroit Free Press. A local news station pulled into his driveway during an interview with The Washington Post.

“I take a picture of a deer, and it goes wild,” he said, laughing.

But it wasn’t just any deer.

Large-animal veterinarian Steve Edwards told the Detroit Free Press that the buck was a “one-in-a-million” find.

It could be even rarer, but the actual numbers are hard to track, said John Bruggink, professor of wildlife biology at Northern Michigan University.

Extra antlers have been reported as early as 1965, when researchers found a deer with an additional antler growing off its cheekbone.

The extra antler on Lindberg’s deer could be attributed to damage to the pedicels, the bony structures that support and develop antlers on animals, Bruggink said.

If a cluster of cells or pedicels are damaged during early development, or if blood supply is restricted for growing antlers, it could result in odd shapes, he said.

Deer in the area shed their antler in early spring and have a new, fully-formed set by winter. If the previous antlers don’t shed off fully, it could also result in weird growths on deer — including an antler, he said.

Deer antlers weigh about three to nine pounds, but that extra weight is unlikely causing harm to the buck, Bruggink said.

“An extra one is pretty rare,” he said.

Lindberg, who hunted for 40 years, said he hasn’t shot a deer with a rifle in about 20 years after losing a desire to kill the animals.

“When I get a picture of a deer, I’m just as excited,” he said, noting that his previous hunting skills and long love of photography have resulted in wildlife photography enjoyment.

Hunting the deer, he said, would’ve been easier than taking its picture.

For now, he’s keeping the location of his prized buck to himself.

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