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Eek! Why does that deer have warts?

A whitetail doe exhibits large tumor-like growths known as fibromas on her skin. The skin disease is not uncommon among deer in the Inland Northwest. It is not known to affect their meat for human consumption, Idaho Fish and Game biologists say. (Rich Landers)
A whitetail doe exhibits large tumor-like growths known as fibromas on her skin. The skin disease is not uncommon among deer in the Inland Northwest. It is not known to affect their meat for human consumption, Idaho Fish and Game biologists say. (Rich Landers)

WILDLIFE -- Skin "warts" on deer are alarming to see, but they don't affect the table quality of the meat, experts say.

"Idaho Fish and Game receives calls each year about deer with abnormal skin growths," said Kara Campbell, department regional wildlife biologist. Most of the time these deer have fibromatosis, a skin disease that results in large tumor-like growths. 

These fibromas can be hairless, round, appear firm, single or numerous and may be anywhere on the deer, Campbell said.  They generally are less than 5 inches in diameter and may be dark in color or appear to be bleeding. 

"Fibromas are found mostly on young bucks and it is thought the disease can be transmitted through direct contact during the rut," she said. "However, the transmission path isn’t completely known, and contact with vegetation that has been touched by a fibroma may also spread the disease.  Another possible transmission path is through biting insects."

Deer usually are unaffected by fibromatosis unless the growths are in spots that impede normal activities like eating, walking or seeing, Campbell said. 

"The disease is not a significant cause of death for deer and fibromas disappear over time.  Deer usually develop immunity for fibromatosis after having it when younger, so if exposed as an adult they are generally not affected.

          "Fibromatosis is species-specific and humans are not known to be affected by the disease.  As unsightly as it is on the outside, meat from a deer with fibromatosis can be consumed, as fibromas are attached to the skin and not in the muscles underneath."   



Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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