I take exception to the statement in the article “Paying deerly” in the Dec. 8, 2011 Independent, saying I have “no formal scientific training.” I graduated with a B.A. in science and education. Because I had a double major, I have the equivalent of six years of college credits rather than just four. I also worked in the nursery of a large hospital in Denver for eight months, giving me the opportunity to observe “normal asymmetry” (not the same as birth defects) on between 1,200 and 1,500 human newborns. As a wildlife rehabber for 45-plus years, I have closely observed the anatomy of over 500 newborns of a variety of Montana mammal species, wild and domestic, and have necropsied several hundred mammals and birds.
Our 2011 study Observations of brachygnathia superior in wild ruminants in Western Montana, by three biologists, one with a Ph.D., and myself, is available online. For this study, the amount of underbite, overbite or normal contact of the lower incisors with the premaxillary pad was quantified, with measurements.
Our 2002 study Genital abnormalities in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in west-central Montana: Pesticide exposure as a possible cause, was done by three biologists, two with Ph.D.s, and myself.
I am not “charting” these malformations alone, as the Independent’s article insinuates.
Here is my response to Dr. Foresman’s statement that “because there’s a lot of variability in nature, the malformations Hoy is charting might result from natural processes, anomalies or injuries, especially in roadkill”: First, natural processes include the disruption of cellular signaling and cellular growth during fetal development. Second, my medical dictionary defines “anomalies” as birth defects. And third, injuries incurred after it is born, how an animal dies or that it is dead do not in any way affect the presence or absence of developmental malformations/birth defects, which an animal has at birth.
Interestingly, the mountain goat pictured in an advertisement on page 24 of the Dec. 1 Independent has an underbite, apparently not observed by government biologists. The lower lip is clearly forward of the upper lip, opposite of normal.