2-headed deer found in Minnesota is unique in known natural history

A mushroom hunter found them near Freeburg in 2016.
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A two-headed, baby white-tail deer found in Minnesota two years ago is thought to be the first conjoined deer of its kind to ever make it to term.

The discovery was made by a mushroom hunter in May 2016 near Freeburg, southeast Minnesota, where he came across the recently dead fawns a mile from the Mississippi River.

He called the Minnesota DNR, which at the time employed researcher Gino D'Angelo, who now works at the University of Georgia's Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

D'Angelo has just this week published research into the incredible discovery, which he penned with the aid of the Minnesota DNR's Louis Cornicelli, as well as Christina Clarkson and Arno Wuenschmann, of the University of Minnesota's veterinary department.

What was remarkable about the fawns other than the fact they had two separate necks and heads, but the same body, was that they look to have been groomed by its mother – meaning they made it to term.

Sadly, tests of its lungs confirmed they never breathed the air, so were delivered stillborn. Nonetheless, this was a unique scientific find.

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Conjoined twins are more commonly found in domestic animals, such as cattle and sheep, but are much rarer in wildlife.

As D'Angelo told the University of Georgia, there have only been 19 confirmed instances of conjoined twins in wildlife between 1671 and 2006, only five of which were in the deer family.

Only two of these cases were found in white-tailed deer, but both were fetuses yet to be delivered.

"It’s amazing and extremely rare," D’Angelo said. "We can’t even estimate the rarity of this. 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."

Minnesotans will be able to take a look at the fawns at the Minnesota DNR headquarters in St. Paul, while a skeletal display will be put in the University of Minnesota Veterinary Anatomy Museum.

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