PIPESTONE, Minn. — A southern Minnesota photographer captured shots of a white-tailed deer that have elicited sympathy — and more than a few responses along the lines of, "OMG! What is that?"
Julie Carrow of Pipestone posted four photos on Facebook recently showing a deer covered in wart-like bumps, including large masses on the animal's neck and face.
She wrote: "1) has anyone see this little guy around town and 2) can anything be done to help him. This to me is just heartbreaking."
The post was shared by a friend on the Big Bone Outdoors page on Facebook and quickly went viral, having been shared nearly 8,000 times as of Monday, Aug. 5. Carrow also sent the photos to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which quickly identified the the deer's malady.
"They are like warts," according to Michelle Carstensen, wildlife health group leader for the DNR.
Fibromas is caused by the papillomavirus, resulting in hairless tumors that are hard and rough, usually black or brownish in color. The warts can look grotesque, but unless extremely prevalent and clustered rarely cause problems.
This deer has an extreme case, which might make it more vulnerable to predators.
"Not new to Minnesota for sure, as we get photos just about every year showing deer with fibromas," Carstensen said. "In time, they regress and fall off; however, in very extreme cases there can be complications.
"This deer has masses near (and) in the eyes; likely to be impacting its ability to see and the location of the masses are also near joints that can slow down its movement. This is one of the worst cases of fibromas I have ever seen in a Minnesota deer. Could be an easy target for a coyote."
Many Facebook commenters wondered if the DNR could do something for the deer. Some asked if the animal should be put down.
"We will not interfere with nature in this case," Carstensen said.
The Quality Deer Management Association web site says small tumors would not cause a deer to be unfit for human consumption. The web site recommends not eating meat from a deer with large tumors that might have second bacterial infections, usually identified by their swollen look and yellowish pus.