Eric shot a deer on Sunday, making a slight dent in the all-too-large local population, and as we were butchering, I came across some unusual clumps in the stomach. After a couple of emails back and forth with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), we have a hypothesis regarding what these might be that fits with other natural observations this year. We thought we’d share parts of this exchange, as we’re interested in hearing other observations or alternate hypotheses.
First, the question I submitted via the MDC contact form:
When my husband & I butcher deer, I always like to check out the stomach contents to see what they’ve been eating. My husband shot a young doe today, and I saw something that I don’t remember encountering before: hard-packed clumps of food up to the size of large marbles that I think were in the last part of the stomach, just before the small intestine. When I initially felt the clumps, my first guess was that they were acorns, but when I got a look at them, it was clear they were something else. The color was similar to the contents of the main part of the stomach, but the texture was finer, and the clumps were solid enough that I could barely break one open with the tip of a knife. They were also very well rounded. Corn was clearly a part of the diet, as was other unidentifiable vegetative matter.
I haven’t been able to find any description of these through google. Are these clumps normal, or is there an explanation regarding what they are?
So, I’m sure MDC gets a lot of basic questions, but I really thought the initial inquiry was written in such a way to avoid an answer to the tune of the one I got, this one-liner:
That would be deer droppings.
Um, no, that wouldn’t be deer droppings.
So, another note, and now that I had an email address rather than a web form, I could send a photo, too:
I’m attaching a photo this time, because they’re definitely not deer droppings. For one, they’re way larger than deer droppings; they’re also much more solid/compacted than deer droppings; and the particle size is much coarser than that of the droppings. Plus, these weren’t in the intestine, which is where droppings generally take shape. The photo only shows one, but there were probably a dozen or so.
This time I got a somewhat more useful response, including the following link:
The clumps I found did not match the description in that article, but with some more reading, I learned that bezoars are more diverse than the above article suggests.
Here’s what I wrote back:
They are definitely not smooth like the one shown in that link. However, I did a bit more research, and I wonder if they might be diospyrobezoars:
“A specific type of phytobezoar, termed a diospyrobezoar, is associated with ingestion of unripe persimmons, which contain a soluble tannin called shibuol that polymerizes into a coagulative cellulose-protein compound in the acid environment of the stomach, to form the bezoar. In addition to their presence in human stomachs, phytobezoars have been documented in the stomachs of slaughtered plant-eating animals.”
The persimmon crop around here was the largest I’ve ever seen, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a hungry young doe ate a few too many unripe ones. The photos on the following site (which is mostly focused on hair as a causative agent) certainly suggest that not all bezoars are smooth, and that sometimes multiples can occur at once: http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/index.cfm?p=exhibits.hairball.index. So, I think bezoars are a reasonable explanation. Thanks for pointing me in that direction.
This doe was very lean, implying a shortage of food (not surprising given their abundant population around here and a very low acorn year). If a big persimmon crop is thus the cause of the stomach clumps, then it wouldn’t be surprising for other hunters to come across these this year. We’d love to hear from others if you’ve seen these, and/or if you have alternate hypotheses regarding what they might be.