Apparently struck and killed by a car, the male deer with large, bulbous, tumor-like growths on his head was found by a resident who took several pictures and sent them to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said Charlie Killmaster, state deer biologist.
Although an odd and disturbing sight, Killmaster said Friday such growths aren’t entirely unusual.
“It’s not common,” he said, “but we do see something like this once or twice a year.”
GADNR officials never got a chance to look the deer over, but Killmaster said he has a few ideas about what the warty masses atop its head were.
“It’s really hard to tell specifically what it is without having my hands on it,” said Killmaster. But his best guess for what ailed the deer was either fibromas, which are basically “deer warts,” or an abnormal antler-growth condition called antleroma.
GADNR Game Management Chief John Bowers has similar theories.
“The tumor-like, ‘warty’ growths on this deer’s head surrounding both antlers are most likely fibromas or antleromas,” said Bowers in a news release from GADNR. Bowers was unavailable for comment Friday.
Fibromas can be caused by insects biting the deer or contact with other afflicted animals. Antleromas, according to studies, may be caused by abnormal testosterone levels and unusual antler-growth, officials said.
But Killmaster said there isn’t much need to worry about the deer in Cherokee County.
“Neither one of (the conditions) are really a cause for concern from a population-health standpoint,” he said. “The warts themselves — if that’s what it is — they’ll go away in some time. It’s a viral thing. Once the immune system catches up, it works its way out and is fine.”
Bowers seems to agree.
“Rarely do these abnormalities cause deer any problems,” he wrote in the news release. “But occasionally the location of a large growth can interfere with sight, eating, breathing or even affect the ability of the deer to walk.”
Killmaster said he’d seen deer with warts so big their eyes were swollen shut.
The potential conditions are also not likely to cause humans any harm, unless the deer also has a bacterial infection as a result of the growths, the experts said.
“If it’s fibroma, once they’ve skinned the deer, you can’t even tell it had it,” Killmaster said. “It’s not transferable to humans. The only concern is that there’s something else going on with it if it’s a bacterial issue. If (hunters) are ever unsure about it, the best thing to do is call one of our offices.”