Three-Legged Whitetail Deer Born That Way Or Deformed By Injury?

My beautiful picture

Was this Massachusetts whitetail deer with three legs born this way or did it sustain an injury? (Photo: John Fouracre)

Nature offers some glimpses of strange things in the woods, and a three-legged whitetail deer definitely fits in that category.

John Fouracre of central Massachusetts contacted us a few weeks ago with some game camera photos of this three-legged deer. He’d never seen it before and didn’t know anything about it, other than what was on the photos.

“After studying the pictures I have, I believe this is a May/June fawn,” he wrote via email. “The one standing next to it is the same size and I have one that shows a larger one in the back. So this leads me to believe that there is a mature doe who gave birth to twins.

My beautiful picture“If this is a buck fawn, I think he is going to have a battle of survival come breeding time. Not only with other bucks but to mount a doe would be quite a feat. When you study the pictures real close, take extra care to notice that it appears to have a larger leg and foot than the other one.”

The photos definitely give some glimpses into the deer’s deformity. The knobby protrusion on the shoulder looks like a piece of bone or the joint, but with the hide grown over.

Fouracre contacted David Stainbrook, Deer and Moose Project Leader with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, to glean some insight.

My beautiful picture“After looking at the photos, I can’t really tell the sex or age, but I’m leaning toward a younger male,” Stainbrook emailed to Fouracre. “The missing leg appears to be from a healed wound. I don’t think it was born with only three legs for two reasons: 1) within the first 24 hours the mother will often abandon fawns that appear unhealthy and 2) there appears to be a gap (two folds) in the healed wound where it would have surrounded the bone. The shoulder muscle is evident but not very developed which is consistent with a broken bone or an infection.”

“Typically the breaks we see from vehicles occur further down on the leg, resulting in a stub, not at the center of the large bone in the shoulder,” he added. “But, it could have happened when the deer was younger or from a vehicle that is high up like a truck. Another potential explanation could be that the deer got its leg caught in wire or

something similar that cut the circulation off and led to the leg falling off in such a clean manner.

The deer looks like it is doing well, so I don’t think there is anything to be worried about.”