I live right near the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in southeast Idaho, and have one of the only wooded lots in the neighborhood. When we purchased the house last fall, the backyard was completely overgrown and there actually wasn’t a yard. The realtor told us she thought a small buck had been bedding under the porch, and there were multiple deer trails and beds in the trees. We have since cleared some of the yard, but left plenty of wooded area—not only for privacy, but also for the deer.
I work from home and recently heard some noises in the backyard around the porch. When I looked out, a little 3x3 mule deer buck was standing right next to the porch eating the trees. I was super excited to see this (we had been seeing a small button buck passing through, but he disappeared) and immediately grabbed my camera. When he turned around though, I was surprised to see the other side of his face had these black growths. So I started taking pictures!
After some quick Google research, I discovered that these are called Cutaneous Fibromas and are actually quite common.
According to the QDMA, these warts are:
Caused by a papilloma virus
Hairless tumors that can be found on any part of the skin, however they rarely extend below the hide
Present in all areas where deer live
Usually temporary and can vary from 1/2 to 8+ inches in diameter
Mule deer, whitetails and blacktails can get cutaneous fibromas, and these are different than warts that are commonly found on rabbits and squirrels.
I also called my local Idaho Fish & Wildlife office to see if there was any reason to report this to them, such as if they were tracking occurrences, needed to euthanize the deer, etc. I found out the following:
Because these cutaneous fibromas are common, there is no reason to report them.
They typically clear up without any intervention.
The deer isn’t really impacted unless they cause issues with sight, breathing, eating or walking.
The deer population isn’t impacted by them; only a small percentage of deer actually get them.
They can be spread deer to deer, but not deer to human or deer to animal. The wildlife officer suggested we not put out any feed or attractants that would draw more deer (to help prevent the spreading), but indicated it was safe for my dogs and me to be in the yard.
It is not necessary to harvest a deer just because it has fibromas.
Another big question I had was “Is the meat safe to eat?” Not that I plan on harvesting the deer in my backyard, but in the event I ever harvest a deer with these warts, I wanted to know. The answer, “It depends.”.
If the fibromas appears to be infected, swollen or have pus present…the meat would be considered unfit to eat.
If the fibromas are small and uninfected, the meat is not impacted and is ok to eat
As for the deer in my backyard, it just appears that he has this on his face at this time. Unfortunately, there is one right on his eye, but he doesn’t seem to be impacted by it. Since he is frequently in the yard, I’ve been checking him out each time I see him, and since it's only been about 1 week, I can't tell if it has grown any and it doesn't seem like more have appeared. I am interested to see how it progresses throughout the season, and if it eventually goes away. I’m also interested in keeping him around so I can get his sheds!
Sarah Honadel is an avid outdoorswoman from Kentucky, now living in Idaho, who enjoys hunting elk, deer and turkey. She is a team member at Huntress View, Pro Staff for Browning Trail Cameras and Brand Ambassador for the GoWild app. Follow her on Instagram @waddysarah and @arrowridgecreations.