Big Nose Deer

She certainly isn’t the prettiest whitetail doe that I have taken, but good-sized none-the-less.

archery whitetail deer doe

Now here is the interesting part. She has something wonky going on with her nose. It is all swollen with lesions. Check out these images I took after I got her home.

big nose deer big nose deer big nose deer

I remember reading about a deer taken in Michigan from a few years ago that had similar symptoms – the large nose, only it was more pronounced. This doe I have here is not nearly as severe, but it looks to me like it has a very similar thing going on.

Scientists have found that the Cass County deer with the misshapen nose and head had chronic inflammation that was nearly identical to deer specimens of a similar appearance from other states which have been examined at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study.

But so far researchers have not been able to isolate, culture and identify the specific bacteria that caused the infection, said Kevin Keel, one of the veterinarians working on the research.

Dale Wallace, a Cass County hunter, submitted the head of a deer he shot earlier this month for study because its odd appearance, with a grossly swollen face, suggested something was amiss with the animal.

Keel, a veterinarian at the University of Georgia, said he has diagnosed similar deer with a chronic bacterial infection. He believes the swelling of the nose is due to the accumulation of connective tissue underneath the skin that is induced by inflammatory cells. The deer also is similar to three animals a Michigan researcher has seen in recent years, two from Barry County in 2002 and one in Ionia County in 2004, with the only consistent finding in those cases being the presence of demodectic mange mites, spider-like bugs that spread the skin condition mange.

In the case of the Cass County deer, Keel said, “as before, the inflammation was associated with colonies of small bacteria.

“The infection and inflammation were multifocal and extended from the tip of the nose to the joint of the jaw.  However, they were most severe towards the end of the nose.

“The lesions also occurred inside the oral cavity and extended from the lips all the way back to the epiglottis,” Keel said.  “The major lymph nodes of the head were draining the infected tissues and had the same type of chronic inflammation, associated with bacteria.”

Still, attempts to culture the bacteria have been unsuccessful, Keel said. Whatever is is, it may be picky, with different growth requirements than those dictated by standard culturing protocols, Keel said. In addition, freezing and the length of time between the animal’s death and the testing can reduce the viability of many species of bacteria, he said.

Keel said samples are currently undergoing genetic analysis, but it’s not clear how long that may take or how successful those efforts will be. “ We don’t have any idea what type of bacteria this may be or how well our assays will work with them,” he said.

Keel said that because the head had been skinned before it was sent to his lab, he was unable to evaluate the skin for mange mites like those found in other Michigan deer.

“It seems unlikely that mites are related to the infection in this case. I have seen other deer with a similar infection and some but not all had intrafollicular mites,” Keel said.

Even those with mites did not have significant inflammation around the follicles, or the mites in follicles, he said, and they appeared to be incidental or secondary to the bacterial infection.

The above courtesy of mLive.

I am going to try to get in contact with Kevin Keel, as he seems to be the only person studying this weird phenomenon. I just hope I don’t get a bigger nose after eating the venison!

Edit: Now officially part of Mike Hanback’s Big Nose Deer Collection!

Update 10-10-2013: I have not heard back from Kevin Keel so I have tossed all of the meat from this deer. Sadly, it seems like a waste, but It simply is not worth the risk and I am not taking any chances with the unknown. Perhaps I put her out of her misery anyway.

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