Worm in Deer Nose – It’s Normal

Find maggots in your deer’s head or nose?

Yes, it’s gross, but these “worms” are totally normal. No, it’s not some brain eating virus or other deer disease. It’s just a really big maggot. The larvae is laid in the nasal passage by the adult fly in the warmer months of the year, typically the summer. The larvae lives deep within the nasal passage until the following spring then crawls out, goes into the soil and develops into an adult. A deer biologist told me that the worm/maggot/etc. was not harmful to the deer or to people that eat the venison. However, I suspect that these nasal bots freak out many hunters each year. And not the mention the deer that has this thing crawling around in their sinuses.

The maggots do not really cause the deer any harm, but rather just survive of the nutrition of the mucous and other food products that get up in there. After an “infected” deer is shot the deer will begin to cool off. This is when the alleged deer worms start moving around, wondering what went wrong. This is also when most hunters encounter them, as the maggots fall to the ground or are seen exiting the mouth and nose.

Fly Larvae (Maggots) in Deer Head and Mouth

Source: I killed a deer last year that had something that looked like small grubs in its head. Is this normal?

Yes. What you found are called nasal bots. They are normal parasites of white-tailed deer that are actually larva (i.e., maggots) from flies in the genus Cephenemyia that live in the retropharyngeal pouches of deer (i.e., pouches in the back of the throat). Adult female flies lay a packet of eggs around the mouth or nose of the deer. When the deer licks the eggs the larvae within the eggs are released and migrate to the nasal passages. In the deer, the larvae molt and mature until they are fully developed, at which time they exit the deer and fall to the ground to pupate. When adult flies emerge, the life cycle is completed. Nasal bots do not occur in domestic animals and pose no threat to humans.

Nasal Bots and Whiteail Deer

Nasal bots are not considered harmful to whitetail deer even in large numbers, although they do cause concern in the successful hunters that encounter them. The meat is safe to consume. Just forget the image of the maggot crawling out of the deer’s head or mouth and you’ll be fine. If you can’t get over it, just make it into jalepeno cheese summer sausage and send it to me.

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