Deer silhouettes during a hazy morning.

The Case of the Monsanto Deer

A photograph of a deer riddled with skin tumors appeared on social media in October 2018 with a description that appeared to be a quote, but without any citation or link:

A deer that became riddled with tumors from eating plants sprayed with Monsanto’s Roundup. It seems fairly common.

Deer covered in skin tumors

This description is inaccurate, as a simple reverse image search shows. The photograph originally appeared on a Facebook page for hunters along with the actual reason for the growths, which are called, appropriately enough, “deer warts.”

Deer warts are not caused by Roundup or any other pesticide. Cutaneous papillomae are evidently painless growths, often caused by a virus; similar issues can appear with scarring from injury or infection:

An array of wart-like viruses also appears on domestic livestock. These viruses are different from the ones found on white-tailed deer, therefore spreading of the deer fibromas to livestock is considered to be of no consequence.

No human infection from cutaneous fibromas has been reported. The only concern for hunters would be from an animal with extensive bacterial infection, which would render the deer unsuitable for human consumption. These animals would be readily apparent due to the unpleasant exudate produced at the infection site.

In summary, cutaneous fibromas are merely skin blemishes of white-tailed deer. They are of no significance to the health of the deer population.

And if you’re a hunter, don’t worry — experts say that the warts do not affect the taste of the meat unless they become infected, leaving the decision to eat a warty deer almost entirely up to individual taste.