'Amazing' Two-headed White-tailed Deer Fawn Found, Studied, Turned Into Taxidermy

In May of 2016, a white-tailed doe gave birth to twins—something that happens millions of times a year in the U.S. The doe cleaned the twins, as mother deer do, but they didn't respond. The fawns were stillborn and, remarkably, they were conjoined from the neck down. There were two heads, but one body.

While the birth of a pair of conjoined twins is exceptionally rare, it's even more remarkable that a someone found the carcass during a mushroom hunt in southeastern Minnesota. If the Kevin Serres had not found the cadaver quickly, it's likely that a predator would have eaten and destroyed the specimen.

A CT scan of conjoined fawn twins. D'Angelo et Al

Serres picked up the carcass and delivered it to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. There, workers froze the fawns until a biologist could come and study the animals in-depth.

Biologists with a plan to study the animal thawed it out and performed a necropsy, or animal autopsy, on the carcass. They also took a CT scan and an MRI at the University of Minnesota's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Gino D'Angelo, assistant professor of deer ecology and management at the University of Georgia, led the study of the specimen and published the results in the journal The American Midland Naturalist.

D'Angelo found that the fawns had never breathed air, proving they were stillborn. The CT and MRI scans showed that their spines converged into one halfway down their backs. The fawns shared many body parts, but there were two hearts and two intestinal tracts. Only one of the tracts led to the anus, so the deer would have likely died soon after birth even they hadn't been stillborn.

The carcass of two twin fawns, conjoined. D'Angelo et al

The taxidermy company Wild Images In Motion received the pelt to make into a taxidermy mount, which will be on display at Minnesota Department of Natural Resource's headquarters. The skeleton is going to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Anatomy Museum.

The find is extremely rare, but scientists can't calculate the exact frequency at which this happens. "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," D'Angelo said in a press statement. Wild animal deformities usually go without documentation, as the animals often die and are devoured.