In nature, you can find a lot of strange things, particularly in the animal kingdom. That does not mean we ever stop being surprised by them.
Now a new report from the Quality Whitetails magazine, the journal of the National Deer Association, has brought to our attention a very rare occurrence: a deer with hairy eyeballs.
Yes, you read that right the deer had hair on its eyeballs.
"I’ve reported on a lot of weird deer in my career as a hunting journalist, and if I gathered all of them for a freak-show at a carnival, this one would be the main attraction. Step right up if you dare. See the buck with hairy eyeballs!" wrote the journalist.
The deer was discovered on a busy street seemingly completely unaware that it was surrounded by humans. When officers caught and brought it in for an examination to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study unit (SCWDS) of the University of Georgia vet school it was found that it suffered from epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD).
This likely explained why the deer was walking in circles and lacked any fear of the humans surrounding it. Deer suffering from the EHD virus are reported to have high fevers and other disorienting symptoms. But it did not explain the hairy eyes.
The SCWDS reported that the hairy eyes were actually “corneal dermoids.”
“Dermoids are a type of choristoma, which is defined as normal tissue in an abnormal location. Accordingly, dermoids are characterized by skinlike tissue occurring on the body in a location other than on the skin," Dr. Nicole Nemeth and research technician Michelle Willis wrote in a formal report for the SCWDS.
"Corneal dermoids, as in the case of this deer, often contain elements of normal skin, including hair follicles, sweat glands, collagen, and fat. The masses generally are benign (noninvasive) and are congenital, likely resulting from an embryonal developmental defect.”
The experts added that the deer was probably not born with the extremely rare condition but rather developed it over time. This would explain why it managed to survive for so long despite being essentially blind. The deer is only the second documented case of corneal dermoids in a whitetail.