Ask The Biologist

Nose Bugs

Nose Bugs

By Bob Humphrey

Just when you think you’ve seen every kind of strange deer malady...

QUESTION: I shot a nice buck in Illinois this year, and while we were taking pictures, we noticed there was something in its nose. It turned out to be a big snail-looking thing. What is it, and is it safe to eat this deer? –Ryan

ANSWER: This appears to be, and in all liklihood is a nasal bot, the larvae or “maggot stage” of a fly that is specific to members of the deer family. It is actually not all that uncommon. According to Mississippi Wildlife Fisheries and Parks, “Biologists find them in a high percentage of deer, particularly when a thorough examination of the head is conducted.”

Adult flies lay a group of eggs around the nose or mouth of a deer. When a deer licks its nose, small larvae within the eggs are released, then migrate to the nasal passages and sinuses where they molt into larger stages of maturing larvae.

Sometimes you’ll witness a deer that appears to be sneezing repeatedly, but not snorting or blowing. It’s quite possible the deer is being irritated by these nasal bots, although they cause no real harm. It’s also common for these parasites to leave their host if the deer is killed and its body begins to cool, likely the case in your instance.

According to MWFP, “They pose no disease threat to humans and do not harm the venison in any way. Deer found to harbor these harmless parasites are obviously quite safe for human consumption and should not be discarded.”

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