Randy M. from Idaho asked this question. “Last year while bowhunting I had a young doe feed near my stand. She continually “sneezed,” maybe as often as once every 20 seconds to 30 seconds. She seemed normal otherwise and continued to feed. What was going on here?”
This is a good question. I’ve seen this several times over the years. Here is what is happening. Deer get something called nasal bots in their air passages. Another name for this is warbles. Warbles are the larvae of a fly. I’m not sure of the route, but the fly lays eggs on the deer and these then get to the nasal passages and grow (I’m not sure whether the fly lays the eggs in the nasal passages, or the larvae migrates there from other parts of the deer’s body). Once the warble grows it leaves the deer, and the deer is healthy. The sneezing is just the deer trying to clear its nasal passages.
You may have seen similar warbles on cottontail rabbits. Here the larvae burrows under the skin and the warble grows, irritates the animal (itching, etc.), then leaves the animal. Dogs can get warbles. Eggs go from wet grass to the dog and move to moist areas near the groin, where they develop into warbles. Again, this is very irritating to the animal.
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Dr. Dave writes a weekly column for sportsmansguide.com. Dr. Dave studied deer for 30 years as a wildlife management professor at West Virginia University. In addition he has been a bowhunter for over 40 years, with deer being his main prey. He’s also an outdoor writer and has been with “Bowhunter” magazine for 31 years.