Luther Covington, of Ocilla, recently killed a rare buck in Irwin County. The buck was so rare that according to WRD Biologist Charlie Killmaster, the deer is only the third reported case in the state.
“I didn’t recognize him on my cameras until after I got him,” said Luther. “After reviewing my pictures, I saw the abnormality.”
Since 2005, when the “Bullwinkle” syndrome was first discovered, there have been very few cases reported. So far there has been nothing linking the diseased deer to a particular part of the country, nor have scientists found it to be contagious.
It is caused by facial bacterial dermatitis and cellulitis.
“This is a very classic case of the Bullwinkle disease,” said Charlie. “It’s exceedingly rare, however.”
In November, the second known deer in Georgia with this defect was taken in Washington County. The buck was monitored for approximately three years with trail cameras before being killed.
A necropsy was performed on that deer, and it was diagnosed with the Bullwinkle disease caused by a bacterial infection around the muzzle that leads to the swollen appearance. The actual bacterium that causes this condition is extremely difficult to identify and therefore still has not been detected.
Affected deer are usually thin as a result of the disease, but Luther’s buck was a big bodied deer, weighing more than 200 pounds. It’s also unclear if the disease will affect does at the same level that it affects bucks. At least two of the three cases in Georgia were from bucks. It’s unclear what sex the first Georgia deer was.
“Its nasal cavity was completely closed in, but everything else was perfect,” said Luther. “The tissue in that area was extremely tough.”
Even though the disease is not thought to be fatal, it is likely very uncomfortable for its victims.
Investigations are ongoing to better understand the Bullwinkle condition. Meanwhile, it’s recommended that any hunter harvesting a deer with the Bullwinkle disease NOT eat the venison until more is learned about this disease.
“It’s definitely a weird affliction,” added Charlie.