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What is wrong with this deer?

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION: What the heck is all over this deer? -- Edson W.

ANSWER: My initial reaction is: eeewwww! This deer appears to be covered with something called frequent cutaneous neoplasms or fibromas. They are basically skin tumors that are usually dark brown to black, though may occasionally be un-pigmented, tan or white. Biologists don’t know for certain, but suspect they are caused by a virus that may be transmitted by blood-feeding insects. The good news is they are most common found in younger deer.

Ask The BiologistBetter news is that in general, they are not harmful to deer or humans. Infection stimulates an immune response in the host deer. Eventually the fibromas stop growing, then dry up and go away. However, they can affect deer health if the growths are large and interfere with sight, breathing, eating or escaping danger. Larger fibromas can also become, which appears to be the case with the larger, pinkish tumor on the deer pictured - which could result in some type of secondary infection.

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