HAVERHILL — For years, Mark Burke has been feeding deer that meander into the backyard of his father’s home on Kenoza Street where he operates his business, Mark Burke Plumbing & Heating.
He regularly fills a feeder with corn and other grains that attract the animals and keep them from damaging apple trees in the yard, and neighbors’ shrubs and flowers. He and neighbors pitch in to buy the feed to keep the deer busy eating grains, instead of tree buds and plants.
It’s always an attraction to the Burke family, as well as friends and neighbors who show up to watch the show as the sun begins to set.
But recently it became more of a concern for Burke than a fun attraction when he noticed that one deer had what appeared to be a huge growth dangling from its face. Burke became even more alarmed over ensuing days when he noticed the growth was spreading.
“This deer’s head appears to be severely infected with some sort of a disease that blinded him in his left eye,” Burke said. “He has an eye that’s swollen to the size of a softball and wraps around his face. And it’s all over his back legs and it has been progressing.
“Every day the disease appears to be getting worse,” he said.
City Animal Control Officer Michelle Hamel said the sick animal could be suffering from fibromatosis, which is a naturally occurring virus that can an cause large warts in several species of deer, including white tail deer common to New England.
“As long as the animal can and fend for itself we generally have to let it be,” Hamel said. “I hate to see it something like this, but one good sign is that the deer is with other deer. If he was too slow they’d let him be. The fact that other deer are not keeping their distance is a good sign.”