While I was out checking my trail cameras and taking photos of mule deer during the rut in November of 2013 I noticed a fair amount of young bucks showing problems with their eyes.
Apparently there are a couple of different things that it could have been, some more serious than others so the Utah DWR came out to investigate what the deer may have.
All of the deer that I found with Pinkeye were within about a half mile radius. (see photos below)
After putting down a yearling buck here is what a very nice and informative biologist with the DWR (or was it DNR?) had to say:
"We removed one yearling buck and I was able to get a close up look at the eyes. It was definitely conjunctivitis or pinkeye. There are a couple of other things that it could of been so it was good that we were able to verify this. Pinkeye is caused by a bacteria, usually a moraxella app. Pinkeye infections are really common during the late summer months when face flies are most abundant. Face flies tend to congregate on the eyes and faces of animals and pass the bacteria from animal to animal by continuously landing on their eyes. You are probably seeing the pinkeye in this little group of males because they probably hung together this past fall. I did see one doe with a weepy eye while we were looking but she was not nearly as bad as some that Brady has photographed. In cattle the infection can be treated by puffing a powder into their eyes but there is not a real good way to treat wildlife for this condition so they will have to try and get over it. Response to the infection will vary from animal to animal and the most severe cases can result in blindness in one or both eyes. Blindness occurs when the cornea ruptures from build up of fluid underneath the cornea from the infection. It really isn't likely for the animals to pass the infection from one animal to another, the face fly vector is needed so the number of infected animals should decrease as winter progresses. Of course, if a deer does go blind from both eyes rupturing it is unlikely that it will survive in the wild."
All in all this fall I found 7 different small bucks that had eye issues and one doe. It did seem kind of odd that it was more prevalent in the young bucks.
I'm no biologist but my thought is that the young bucks sparing with each other were passing it to one another. With small antlers the bucks faces would come in contact with each other more easily while sparing. Larger bucks would be less likely to touch each other's faces because of the larger antlers locking together further away from their faces.
Regardless how they contracted it I hope this all clears itself up this winter. I would hate for these deer to go blind. Would be nice if there was a cost effective way to treat them. Anyway, I found it very interesting to learn about.