Here at Big Deer Blog we’ve become fascinated by whitetails with unusually big noses, and we’ve committed to building the biggest database of these unusual deer that have been shot across North America.
“Bullwinkle” syndrome was first discovered around 2005. The few scientists who have examined deer with swollen snouts say the condition results from chronic inflammation of tissue in the nose, mouth and upper lip. All the cases studied by researchers have shown similar colonies of bacteria in the inflamed tissues.
How deer acquire Bullwinkle syndrome is unknown. The affliction doesn’t appear to be fatal to the deer, but there are many unknowns.
Bullwinkle syndrome is very rare.
Via Twitter Ty Dickey sent me the info on this Bullwinkle he shot in Washington County, Georgia during the 2015 season:
We had pictures of him from ’13 and ’14. Bullwinkle’s snout was very pronounced originally, but once he got healthier (we started an intensive management program on the land) it wasn’t as noticeable. I started updating Lindsay Thomas at QDMA and Charlie Killmaster at Georgia DNR, and they asked if we’d allow the DNR to have the deer if harvested. We did so and it’s my understanding they determined there were no health issues with the deer except the snout.
Bullwinkle weighed 240 lbs. when harvested, and that was way down from pre-rut pics that year. He was aged at 5.5. He was the dominant buck on the property and visited every feeder regularly. We’ve seen no other issues with any other deer and the herd is extremely healthy.
Health-wise this is typical with the other big-nose deer we’ve reported on. Still, while the deer may act and look fine, except for the engorged snout, you should not eat the meat until more is known about this syndrome.
Come to find out, Ty’s buck was the second-known Bullwinkle ever shot in Georgia. Luther Covington killed the third-known one in Irwin County, also in 2015.
DNR biologist Charlie Killmaster saw this buck too and said, “This is a very classic case of the Bullwinkle disease. It’s exceedingly rare.”
A necropsy was performed on Luther’s deer, and it was diagnosed with the Bullwinkle disease caused by a bacterial infection around the muzzle that leads to the swollen appearance. The actual bacterium that causes this condition is extremely difficult to identify and therefore still has not been detected.
Like Ty’s deer, Luther’s buck was big-bodied and weighed more than 200 pounds.
Biologists know that Ty’s and Luther’s Bullwinkles were bucks, but it’s unclear what the sex of Georgia’s first big-nose deer was. Thus, it’s unclear if the disease will affect does as it does bucks.
The fact that scientists were able to examine both these big-nose Georgia bucks is excellent! On the off-chance you shoot one a doe or buck with a swollen snout, contact your state DNR immediately. Save the head for a biologist to examine so we can learn more about these rare and interesting deer.
If you or any one you know has shot a big-nose deer, or maybe has a trail-cam picture of one, let me know so I can add it to the database.