What Causes Warts and Tumors on Deer?

antelope,turkeyeggs,wartydeer022(Small)Big Deer Hunt Teamer and Montana bowhunter Lucas Strommen was haying on his ranch near the Milk River a few summers ago when he found this buck next to a dike, “gasping for breath and suffering, apparently near death.”

The buck had large warts or tumors that nearly covered one side of his face. One growth had sealed his right eye shut. The largest one was about the size of a tennis ball. He had other numerous growths on his back, some around his groin area, a larger one on his leg, a bunch more behind his head and others on the left side of his head and face.

Montana law prohibits a citizen to put an animal out of its misery, so Luke immediately contacted the regional office of Montana Fish and Game in Glasgow. A warden arrived quickly on the scene, but meantime the deer died. After taking a few pics and putting on protective gloves, Luke and the warden loaded up the animal so he could take it back to his office for further examination.

A biologist there reported that growths like that are not all that uncommon on whitetail deer in the summer, but he couldn’t recall a deer actually dying of them.

Luke had seen a few deer with this type of growth, just not nearly this bad. He was 110% sure it wasn’t EHD. The Milk River has always been a hotbed for that deadly virus. “I have seen hundreds of deer infected with EHD, and this animal’s symptoms were nothing like anything I had ever witnessed,” said Lucas, who guessed the buck to be 1 1/2 years old, maybe 2 ½.

antelope,turkeyeggs,wartydeer021(Small)

So, what were the grossly tumors?

We sent the photos to Dr. Mickey Hellickson, one of the top whitetail scientists in the country. He reported that they were “cutaneous fibromas.” According to Dr. Hellickson fibromas are caused by a virus, and they are rarely fatal unless they occur near the eyes and block the deer’s vision, or around the mouth where they interfere with the animal’s eating or breathing.

The virus is thought to be transmitted from one deer to another by biting insects, just like blue tongue is transmitted.

Dr. Hellickson and other experts say fibromas are usually temporary skin lesions, and deer with these tumors are generally still edible.

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife reports that no human infection from cutaneous fibromas has been reported. The only concern for hunters would be from an animal with an extensive infection, like the one Luke found, which would obviously render the deer meat unsuitable for human consumption.

Experts say that cutaneous fibromas are of no significance to the health of a deer population.

Has anyone ever seen or shot a deer with warts?

3 thoughts on “What Causes Warts and Tumors on Deer?

  1. Ironic that you post this today. My parents told me they saw a doe with a large brown growth on her face last week. I saw her this past Saturday. Most likely she has fawns nearby because she’s hanging around my front yard. The growth is between the size of a baseball and softball. It was below her left eye. She was still browsing like normal, so I guess it’s not affecting her too badly yet. Looked pretty nasty. I don’t think I could eat the meat even knowing it is “generally” safe.

  2. That was certainly the worst I’ve ever seen, still. It’s not uncommon here to see them throughout the summer like Danny.

  3. Shot a doe one year that as she cooled after field dressing, more than a quart of nasal bots (larvae) escaped her nasal cavity. Southeastern Disease unit identified the larvae and I was told would not affect meat, but none of the scientists had seen that number emerge from an infected deer. Kinda nasty.

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