The dif­fi­culty for many new­com­ers is that they are very un­likely to see any se­ri­ous ab­nor­mal­ity in the wild deer they despatch to be con­fi­dent in their di­ag­no­sis, says Jon Snow­don

Sporting Gun - - CONTENTS - JON SNOW­DON

Jon Snow­don shares his ad­vice on look­ing for se­ri­ous ab­nor­mal­i­ties in deer car­cases.

Lately we have taken out a num­ber of deer from a small park to re­duce the num­bers in the area. I am al­ways vig­i­lant dur­ing the prepa­ra­tion of any deer car­cases we han­dle and prob­a­bly more so if they are from con­fined ar­eas such as parks or farms – some of these are young an­i­mals from both this and the pre­vi­ous year. For some of these deer, we or­gan­ise a car­case prepa­ra­tion day for stalk­ers who are in­ter­ested in the process and what they should be look­ing for when they want to sell them onto the food chain as qual­i­fied “Trained Hunters”.

Deer, like all other an­i­mals – in­clud­ing farm stock, do pick up par­a­sites and some of these can be ob­served dur­ing the in­spec­tion that is re­quired be­fore the car­case can go into the food chain. I have cov­ered some of this in past is­sues of Sport­ing Gun and will not re­peat what has been said there. The dif­fi­culty for many new­com­ers, who carry out the car­case in­spec­tion, is that they are very un­likely to see any se­ri­ous ab­nor­mal­ity in the wild deer they despatch to be con­fi­dent in their di­ag­no­sis.


As you would ex­pect, through­out my stalk­ing ca­reer I have prob­a­bly seen and in­spected more deer than most who hunt recre­ation­ally, but I can still come across some­thing that may test my knowl­edge. In these very rare cases my view on this is al­ways to ask my­self whether I would choose to eat it. I have never been con­cerned enough for the need to re­port a no­ti­fi­able dis­ease, such as foot-and-mouth or bovine tu­ber­cu­lo­sis (TB). Sim­ply put, I have not seen any of these symp­toms in all of the deer I have dealt with.

What I do see is par­a­sites. The com­mon ones are liver fluke and lung­worm and both are com­mon in roe deer, es­pe­cially if they are on ground that is wet or sur­rounded by live­stock.

So what do I see?


The lungs of a deer should be pink, spongy and have no hard lumps in them. I pal­pate the lungs in my hand to check all is as it should be. If hard ar­eas are found, es­pe­cially in the lower part of the lung and pale white or grey colour­ing is ob­served at the base of the lung, then it is lung­worm. The worm lives in­side the lungs in se­ri­ous bur­dens. If the lungs are cut open they can be ob­served as small white thread­like worms of­ten in large num­bers.

If there are any swollen lymph glands, ab­scesses or le­sions then there has to be the sus­pi­cion of TB, which is no­ti­fi­able. TB is a res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease even though in se­ri­ous cases its ef­fects can be seen in other parts of the body.

Liver fluke

This can be com­mon. If it is a heavy bur­den then the liver can be very swollen and al­most look as if it has tu­mours on the sur­face. The more usual signs will be spots of white scar­ring show­ing just be­low the sur­face of the liver. If the liver is cut open then cal­ci­fied blood ves­sels can be seen.

We have just in­spected a liver that had a very swollen lymph gland, there was no pus and it was firm to the touch. The liver was slightly swollen, which could be the an­i­mal’s re­ac­tion to the start of the in­fes­ta­tion. It was this year’s calf with very good body weight and it was show­ing no signs of distress or ab­nor­mal be­hav­iour be­fore the shot. It was in­spected care­fully through­out and showed no signs what­so­ever of any other prob­lems and I was happy it went into the food chain.

If any­one is in doubt then the best thing to do is get a sec­ond opin­ion from some­one more ex­pe­ri­enced or a friendly vet.

In gen­eral, par­a­sites are not a rea­son to re­ject the car­case from en­ter­ing the pub­lic food chain. In these in­stances, and to abide by leg­is­la­tion, all that has to be done is to record what was ob­served on the dec­la­ra­tion and in the larder records.

In a case where the deer has a heavy bur­den of one or more species of par­a­site – this can quickly de­bil­i­tate an an­i­mal, par­tic­u­larly young­sters, and can lead to other in­fec­tions tak­ing hold be­cause of the an­i­mal’s poor con­di­tion. I would ad­vise that in these cases a care­ful and thor­ough in­spec­tion of the car­case, or­gans and lym­phatic glands should take place.

Good hunt­ing.

Liver fluke can make the liver swollen and look as if it has tu­mours on the sur­face

Worms live in­side the lungs and are small white and thread-like

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