Weird Deer

GON Staff | March 22, 2003

This view of the top of this deer’s head with the nose at the bottom of the photo shows the strange ear deformities. It’s a theory that the condition was caused by ticks on a piece of Crawford County land that had a high population of the tiny insects.

Chuck Bonner, of McDonough, knew something strange was going on last season when he and the hunters on his club in Crawford County saw three or four different deer that appeared to have their ears turned inside out. On Dec. 9, one of the deer, a button buck, was shot by a hunter. Chuck took the frozen head of the deer to WRD Biologist Scott McDonald in Fort Valley. Scott sent it on to UGA’s Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study unit (SCWDS) in Athens.

Wildlife veterinarians with SCWDS told Scott that the most likely explanation was an infestation of ticks. No parasites or other bacterial evidence could be found on the deer, but cases could be cited in which ticks had caused similar malformations of the skin or cartilage of the ears of deer.

“I think the ticks feed in certain areas and the tissue scars, and when it heals, it is pulled in a weird direction,” said Scott. “The ends of the ears I looked at are rolled over backward, and the ends felt like a hard piece of cartilage. I think that was scar tissue.”

SCWDS could not be certain of this cause, but they theorized that due to habitat factors ticks might exist in abnormally high numbers on Chuck’s hunting land. SCWDS also said that there are probably not any serious implications for regional deer populations.

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