This Deer Has Mystery ‘Growths’ Sprouting From Its Antlers

by Amy Myers

In this edition of Strange, Stumpifying Animals, we’re taking a look at a whitetail deer that has sparked an internet-wide debate with its mysterious growths on its velveting antlers.

Recently, a photographer from Hudson Valley, Owen Cramsie, posted a collection of photos he took that feature a young buck with soft antlers. On the fuzzy cartilage were dozens of black spots that also extended down into the tops of its ears. Despite the close-up shots that Cramsie offered, it’s not quite clear exactly what these growths are.

Along with the strange growths, Owen also captured a hitchhiker perched on top of the deer’s head. The bird seemed to be living out a mutualist relationship, cleaning the deer while also providing a meal for itself.

“So I am tak[ing] pics of this guy and 1 of his friends jumps on board and starts picking off whatever is growing on him off. Guess they work together and he was on his head for about a minute. Lucky catch for me”, Owen posted on Facebook.

Check out the photos here.

Web Sleuths Debate Whether Growths on Deer Are Ticks or Warts

Web sleuths have developed two plausible theories that explain the small, strange masses. The argument boils down to two main ideas: the growths are from ticks or from warts. And really, both have their points.

Those that believe the deer is suffering from a massive tick infestation point to the bird as a clue. Surely, if the avian friend was using the deer’s head as a snack source, it would be after the nutrient-rich bugs, not a bunch of skin masses.

Meanwhile, those that believe the deer has warts don’t so much see tell-tale signs of the dermatological condition. Rather, they just seem to be sure that the growths are definitely not from ticks.

In fact, even Cramsie, himself, had the same thought.

“I do not think they are ticks, I think some kind of fungus? Some might be here and there but I am not sure,” the photographer said in the comments of one of his posts.

Buck Likely Won’t Have Growths on Antlers for Long

To be fair, most deer ticks tend to be much more round, rather than flat little dots when they latch onto a victim. They slowly become engorged, growing into basically little blood pockets.

Another person added that the ticks may go for the body, rather than the antlers and ears.

But this isn’t quite true. During the velveting phase of antler growth, deers actually have blood vessels in that thin layer covering the hard cartilage underneath. That’s why in some wildlife photos, it looks like their antlers are dripping in blood when really, they’re just shedding the velvet. The ears, too, have plenty of capillaries close to the skin’s surface, making them a more accessible blood source for the tiny insects.

Whatever the mystery growths truly are, they don’t look comfortable for the juvenile buck. Thankfully, though, the velvet will shed, taking most of the growths with it, and his feathered friend will help keep the rest at bay.