Sometimes trail-camera pictures don’t paint a pretty picture.
Tom Stokes, who works in West Virginia and lives just across the river in Ohio, recently captured some images of a young spike buck.
“It looks like the Elephant Man,” Stokes said.
The otherwise healthy deer is covered with cutaneous fibromas, or “deer warts.”
Stokes said the buck appears to have developed the growths over the span of several weeks.
“Earlier in the year, I picked up a picture of one that had spots on it in the same kind of pattern,” he said. “I think this may be the same one, with the fibromas more developed.”
Cutaneous fibromas are caused by microscopic parasites transmitted to deer through insect bites or other breaks in the skin. The growths, which are brown or blackish-brown and rough to the touch, average about 3/8 of an inch in diameter but can clump together to form significantly larger masses.
The condition, while unsightly, doesn’t cause lasting harm to its victims unless clumps of the tumors interfere with breathing, eating or walking. The growths usually last for about two months before they dry up and disappear.
Fibromas are found on bucks about five times as often as they are found on does. In either case, they’re pretty rare. Only 2.1 percent of bucks and 0.4 percent of does develop the growths. Stokes said he has a picture of another young buck with a single fibroma about the size of a ping-pong ball.
Deer who develop fibromas are otherwise healthy. The growths affect only the skin, and have no effect on underlying muscles or organs. Meat from a fibroma-infested deer is safe to eat, but Stokes said you’ll never prove it by him.
“I talked with Ryan Harris of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and he said the meat is OK once you skin them out,” Stokes said. “That’s one deer I wouldn’t eat.”