Learn Why This Giant Buck’s Antler Breaks Off


If you observe whitetails for enough years, you’re bound to see something like this: A huge cyst-like growth in the brisket area of an infected deer.

Itxe2x80x99s not uncommon to get a call or email about a strange occurrence found on a deer xe2x80x94 from xe2x80x9cmessed upxe2x80x9d antlers and hooves, to missing testicles on what appears to be a buck. But one of the most common deer phenomenon Ixe2x80x99m asked about deals with various observable growths. Though some, such as cutaneous fibromas often called xe2x80x9cdeer warts,xe2x80x9d might be more common than others, they still draw attention. One common growth that is often misidentified is the seroma, or hydrocyst.

Deer Seromas photo Ryan Bauer DDH fan Learn Why This Giant Buck’s Antler Breaks Off
A hydrocyst is a fluid-filled cyst that occurs in the subcutaneous space usually in the brisket area of a deer. It has been seen in the shoulder and hindquarter areas as well. A hydrocyst develops in response to a traumatic injury xe2x80x94 usually on the ventral aspect of the body xe2x80x94 with a resultant accumulation and encapsulation of fluid. (Photo courtesy of longtime D&DH subscriber Ryan Bauer.)

These large growths appear near the brisket on deer, though in some rare instances might show up in other areas of the body. They often resemble a basketball stuffed under the hide. When someone spots one of these growths, they commonly think itxe2x80x99s a cancerous tumor. In the case of seromas, far from it. Seromas are often developed due to a traumatic injury to the area, which holds and encapsulates blood serum, resulting in the large, ball-like shape. If you puncture a hydrocyst while field dressing a deer, you will notice that the blood serum is a clear fluid, sometimes tinted yellow or red, but not the green or pus that would indicate an infection.

Jake Krueger Learn Why This Giant Buck’s Antler Breaks Off
Another pronounced example of a hydrocyst. This Wisconsin fawn might seem hindered by the growth, but the deer is actually getting along just fine. (photo courtesy of Jake Krueger)

Deer Warts: What We Know About These Nasty Growths on Whitetails

Systemic Infections

Though these growths are usually easy to identify, there are other conditions that can resemble seromas. With often the same root cause (trauma), areas on deer can become severely infected to the point in which the hide is pushed out and resembles a seroma. But unlike a seroma, systemic infections can lead to severe body fatigue or death. In much rarer cases, deer have been observed with sarcoma (cancer) that causes large tissue growths. Though much less frequent, this is often what hunters think of when they see growths on deer.

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Any time something appears to be wrong with a deer, the safe consumption of the meat comes into question, which is the case when a hunter shoots a deer with xe2x80x9cdeer wartsxe2x80x9d (cutaneous fibromas), hydrocysts or other outward abnormalities. For hydrocysts and cutaneous fibromas, the condition ends prior to meat contamination. Though itxe2x80x99s not recommended to eat meat that is in contact with seromas, the rest of the venison is fine to consume. However, safe processing steps are important, including making sure that it is a seroma and not an infection, which could contaminate meat throughout the deerxe2x80x99s body.

How Whitetail Bucks Grow Weird Nontypical Antlers

While deer are susceptible to many conditions and injuries, it is important to remember that deer are resilient animals and often overcome injury and illness, thus human intervention is rarely recommended. Of those, seromas or hydrocysts are one of the least to worry about for both deer and hunters. Mainly benign in nature, a seroma is more of an eyesore than it is a serious health problem.

xe2x80x94By Jeremy and Emily Flinn, Professional Deer Biologists