Two-headed fawn found in Minnesota cements itself in science

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Photo Courtesy: Minnesota DNR

A two-headed white-tailed fawn found two years ago in a Minnesota forest is cementing its place as a landmark case among the oddities found in nature.

According to a recently published study by researchers connected to the Minnesota DNR, the fawn is the first recorded case of a conjoined two-headed deer brought to full-term and born. There have only been two other cases of conjoined twins in white-tailed deer, neither made it through the full pregnancy.

"It’s never been described before," said Lou Cornicelli, a co-author on the study and a wildlife research manager for the DNR. "There are a few reported cases of two-headed ungulate fetuses, but nothing delivered to term. So, the uniqueness made it special."

In May 2016, a mushroom hunter found the two-headed fawn "freshly dead" in the forest near Freeborn in Houston County. For the researchers, finding such a unique creature in such good condition was a boon. 

"Animals that are stillborn, they don’t last long on the landscape because of scavengers," said Cornicelli. "In our case, we were lucky that he found the fawn before it was eaten and turned it into DNR."

After testing the fawn's lungs, the researchers confirmed the fawn was stillborn. X-rays showed it had two separate head-neck regions, which rejoined along the spine. A full necropsy detailed various internal issues, explaining why the little fawn's life ended so soon. But it still remains unclear how exactly the creature came to be.

Wild Images In Motion Taxidermy mounted the unique two-headed fawn on a bed of greenery, where it lies as though it is just waking from a nap. The mount will eventually be moved to the MNDNR headquarters in St. Paul, where it will be on public display.

"We all thought it was pretty neat and were glad to be able to show it to the public," said Cornicelli. "The taxidermists, Robert Utne and Jessica Brooks did a great job with the mount and treated it very respectfully."

The University of Minnesota Veterinary Anatomy Museum will receive the fawn's skeletal recreation to put on display.

For the full study, click here.