A deer in Tennessee was found wandering around the street, seemingly unaware of its surroundings. The buck was walking in circles when wildlife officers caught the deer and noticed his hairy eyeballs.
The Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study unit (SCWDS) of the University of Georgia vet school determined that corneal dermoids caused the buck’s hairy eyeballs.
“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.
A dermoid, by definition, is a type of benign tumor made of tissues that usually appear in other parts of the body; in this case, skin tissue complete with hair follicles cropped up in the deer’s cornea.
These dermoids will cause a loss of sight but the animal can still tell day from night. Sterling Daniels, a wildlife biologist at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), told Quality Whitetails. “I’d compare it to covering your eyes with a washcloth. You could tell day from night, but that’s about it.”
According to Dr. Nicole Nemeth, the dermoid probably developed early on in the deer’s life, most likely while still in the womb, an associate professor in the Department of Pathology at SCWDS.
The deer also tested positive for EHD, which would explain him walking in circles near humans. EHD is a virus that gives deer a fever and causes them to become disoriented but was not the cause of the hairy eyeballs.