Click the link at the end of the article for pictures, if you have a strong stomach.
You may not want to know what I’m about to tell you: Whitetails are virtual school buses for parasites. They are packed from nose to tail with mucus-covered lifeforms.
The good news is these parasites are all completely harmless to people, and if you’d like to remain happily ignorant of their existence, I suggest you stop reading now.
1. Liver Fluke – This beast will give pause to any hunter who enjoys deer liver ‘n onions. The 1- to 3-inch long, leech-like fluke is the adult stage of this parasite, and it resides in capsules inside a deer’s liver and feeds on blood.
2. Large Lungworm – If you cut into a deer’s windpipe or lung passages and see long, spaghetti-like nematodes slithering around, you are looking at the adult lungworm. Larvae from this parasite crawl up the windpipe,
3. Meningeal Worm – As an adult, this nematode lives in the meninges, which is the sac or tissue layer surrounding the brain. In heavy infestations, they can cause neurological and behavioral problems.
4. Arterial Worm – Ever see a deer that appeared to have a very large chaw of tobacco in its cheek? This deer likely is the victim of a parasite called an arterial worm, because the adult lives in the carotid arteries in the necks of whitetails.
5. Abdominal Worm – This strange worm lives freely in the abdominal cavity of deer among (not inside) the organs, so they may be seen by hunters when field-dressing their kill. The adults look like thin, white noodles.
6. Larval Tapeworm – Deer host this interesting parasite only in its larval form, which is found in small cysts on the surface of a deer’s liver. The cysts look like small bumps about the size of an aspirin tablet (the photo shows one slightly enlarged).
7. Sarcocystis – This parasite is a protozoa (single-celled animal) that has a two-stage life cycle involving deer and their predators.
8. Nasal Bots – Few horror movies have ever achieved the shock value of actually witnessing a giant maggot crawl out of a deer’s nostril.
9. Muscle Worms – If you’ve ever cut into the backstraps of a deer and found thin, 1- to 3-inch-long worms threaded through the meat, you’ve seen muscle worms.
10. Large Stomach Worms – Much like the lungworm, the large stomach worm survives on a relatively simple life cycle that only involves deer.