A woman called Julie Carrow spotted the deer in Pipestone, Minnesota, last month, and managed to take a few snaps of the animal, capturing the large growths covering most of its face, neck and stomach.
“This to me is just heartbreaking,” she wrote as she uploaded the incredible images to Facebook.
Carrow, a nurse and keen photographer told CityPages that the deer didn’t look unwell, despite being covered in unusual warts.
“This deer casually wandered past us,” she explained.
“He did not appear in any distress or malnourished, though I couldn’t see his eyes.”
The photos were also shared on a Facebook group called Big Bone Outdoors, where it went viral – racking up 7,900 shares and 1,500 reactions.
“Omg. Yikes. I have never seen that before,” one person commented.
Carrow got in touch with the Department of Natural Resources, who were able to identify the condition as a pretty nasty case of deer fibromatosis – fibromas being wart-like growths found on the skin of white-tailed deer and other members of the deer family, also referred to as tumours or simply warts.
The DNR’s Michelle Carstensen told CityPages it was the worst case of the condition she’s ever witnessed during her 15-year stint with the state wildilfe programme.
Carstensen said the deer’s vision was probably being affected by the huge lumps, which would make escaping from predators a lot more challenging.
“It’s possible these will regress and he’ll survive this,” she said.
“But it’s also possible he becomes an easy prey item in the meantime.”
Carrow later wrote on Facebook: “My hope is this disease can get some exposure to help the other deer to maybe cure or prevent this.”
According to the DNR’s Michigan website, fibromas are ‘randomly distributed’ on deer but occur most frequently around the eyes, neck, face and forelegs.
Caused by a virus called papillomavirus (HPV in humans), fibromatosis is also not usually fatal to deers, and the disease is not known to infect humans or domestic animals.
“It’s main significance lies in the consternation and concern experienced by the hunter who shoots a deer covered with ugly-looking lumps,” the website says, basically explaining that the main issue is usually just cosmetic.
“Though they don’t harm the meat, fibromas are repulsive to most persons and therefore render a fine trophy aesthetically undesirable.”