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Sticky Lungs?

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"We get lots of questions about whitetail oddities, but this week’s question deer lungs is definitely a new one.

QUESTION: Over the years between myself and my oldest son, we have shot several deer and found their lungs seemed like they were pasted to the sides of their rib cage. We are from Pennsylvania and we were just wondering what if you could tell us what could cause this strange occurrence? — Don F.

Sticky Lungs?

ANSWER: It’s funny you should ask, because I recently encountered this for the first time on a deer in Alabama. Without hesitation, the fellow eviscerating the deer attributed it to pneumonia. Always curious about such phenomena, I did a little research and discovered the following:

Pleurisy or pleuritis is an inflammation of the pleura – the membrane that covers the lungs. One complication of this malady is pleural adhesions, where the pleura becomes adhered to the rib cage.

Pleurisy can be caused from a variety of things:
* Trauma – from stabbing or rib fracture is not rare among bucks, but probably uncommon enough that a hunter would be unlikely to encounter multiple examples.
* Tuberculosis (TB) – Deer can contract bovine TB, but the lungs and chest cavity of infected deer usually show tan or yellow lumps.
* Hypersensitivity pneumonitis – from inhaling dust contaminated with bacterial, fungal or animal products. It’s a bit of a stretch, but not inconceivable that this could be contracted by deer being supplementally fed.

Not satisfied with any of the above answers, I asked Dr. Karl Miller at the University of Georgia Deer Lab, and he suggested it could be genetic or developmental. Given that you’ve seen several examples, I suggest the former. Maybe it’s just some rare malformation that’s passed on in your area. Bear in mind, I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on television. This is merely my best guess — and I welcome any further insight.

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