Deer 'warts' unsightly, not serious

Posted: October 31, 2017 at 1 a.m.

Deer with "warts" should not concern hunters. The growths are tumors caused by a virus

Hunters scan through images taken by trail cameras each year, eyeing the deer that visit their stands. They occasionally see an image of a deer with tumor-like growths along its sides, back or neck.

These warty obtrusions are called cutaneous fibromas, and they're fairly common in deer. The tumor is actually caused by a virus that is thought to be transmitted by biting insects.

"The virus also may enter through a cuts or other breaks in the skin," said Dr. Jenn Ballard, wildlife veterinarian for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. "But there's no evidence that these growths can be transmitted to domestic pets, livestock or people."

Ballard said biologists throughout the agency have seen an increase in the number of calls and images of the malady this year, usually with concerns that the growths may be an indication of chronic wasting disease or some other serious illness.

"These tumors are actually fairly common. There may be a few more cases happening this year, but it may just be that people are a bit more observant" because of awareness of the wasting disease, he said.

The growths usually ranging in size from as small as a pea to softball-sized and are rarely permanent. They only pose serious risk if they develop in areas that interfere with the deer's sight, breathing, eating or walking.

Many hunters ask if deer with fibromas are safe to eat. A few small fibromas won't make the meat unsafe for human consumption, and hunters who kill deer with these lesions will notice the growths are only on the skin and don't extend into the muscle tissue.

In more severe cases, fibromas may become infected or discolor the muscle underneath. The virus is not known to infect people, but hunters should not consume animals that behave abnormally or have evidence of secondary bacterial infections associated with these lesions.

Sports on 10/31/2017