A Minnesota man out hunting for wild mushrooms found something much more rare: a two-headed deer, the Miami Herald is reporting. The incident happened in 2016, but is only now being reported in the national media.
The hunter, whose name has not been released, was hunting for wild mushrooms along the Mississippi River between Minnesota and Iowa when he came upon the carcass of the fawn. Since it was a cold and icy day, the fawn’s carcass was perfectly preserved.
The man called the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which, of course, was interested in running tests on the animal. After being sent to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, researchers made some startling discoveries.
Apart from having two heads, the animal was otherwise normal in every way. Its spots and other markings were almost textbook ordinary. Its fur was clean, meaning that its mother had groomed it, just like she would with any other fawn.
However, there was no air in the animal’s lungs, meaning it was stillborn.
Beyond that, the twin fawns (biologically, a mammal born with two heads is actually two mammals who are twins) had a few deformities. They shared a malformed liver. There were two hearts, but they shared one, malformed pericardial sac. They had extra intestinal tracts and spleens.
Long story short, says Gino D’Angelo, a University of Georgia researcher who used to work for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, “they never stood a chance.”
“Their anatomy indicates the fawns would never have been viable.”
In fact, conjoined twins, though rare in humans and domestic animals, are even rarer in wildlife. Domestic animals are often in contact with humans, so any startling malformations, such as two heads, are usually reported. Whereas a wild animal may live, die, and rot before ever being seen by a human, says D’Angelo.
“Of the tens of millions of fawns born annually in the U.S., there are probably abnormalities happening in the wild we don’t even know about.”
Still, researchers combed the scientific literature, going back all the way to 1671, and found only 19 cases of bicephaly (having two heads) in wild animals, in nearly 350 years of research. Five of them were in the deer family, and two of them were unborn fetuses. That means the Minnesota mushroom farmer found one of three full-term, two-headed deer fawns to ever be found in recorded scientific history.
For what it’s worth, what remains of the two-headed deer will be put on display in Minnesota. The fawn, in taxidermied form, will be kept at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Its skeleton, meanwhile, will be kept at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Anatomy Museum.