Updated: 11-2-2014

Deer, moose, and antelope have exhibited malformations along Utah’s highway 39 from Ogden into Rich County on the Monte Cristo crest. These malformations include under bites, and testicular abnormalities.  These malformations have been seen in many places including the Bitterroot Valley of MT, many times in animals frequenting road sides.

The sides of Highway 39 are sprayed with a herbicide called Veteran 720. Veteran 720 is a combination of 2,4-D and Dicamba. Agent Orange used during the Vietnam war was composed of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. 2,4,5-T was removed from use because of dioxin contamination. Dicamba and Tryclopyr both organochlorines has since replaced 2,4,5-T. A 2013 investigation showed that 2,4-D “imported from China, had one of the highest dioxin readings for 2,4-D in the last 10 to 20 years, and could pose potential health risks” “It was assumed that because of improved manufacturing processes that there were no longer any dangerous dioxins in 2,4-D.”

2,4-D is known to cause disruption of facial bones, and interfere with testicular development and function. A 1972 study demonstrated “significant increase in the incidence of skeletal changes (to ribs, breastbone, cleft palate, forelimbs)” in fetuses born to mothers exposed to 2,4-D. A 1971 study demonstrated “delayed ossification of the skull bones” in fetuses born to mothers exposed to 2,4-D. A 1977 study showed ” increase in the incidence of cleft hard palates” in fetuses born to mothers exposed to 2,4-D. This is important because under bites are caused by the under development of the premaxillary bone(upper face). In a 1987 industry study 2,4-D was shown to have “led to cataract formation and to changes in the ovaries, testes, spleen, thymus and thyroid gland” This same study also specifically noted altered T4 values in the thyroid. A 1990s industry study(Task Force 2,4-D 1990s) showed “reduced size of testes” in dogs given low doses of 2,4-D. This study demonstrates that the combination of 2,4-D and Picloram causes testicular atrophy. This study shows the reduced sperm production in goats given 2,4-D. This article references a study that shows that estrogenic and anti-androgenic substances cause cryptorchidism. Many herbicides act as estrogenic and anti-androgenic agents.

An industry study (Argus Research Labs., Protocol No. 1819-004, 1992) showed ” irregular nasal and internasal ossification in the fetuses” of fetuses whos mothers were given Dicamba. This nasal and internasal ossification is in the same region of the skull as the maxillary and premaxillary bones that are associated with under bites.  This study demonstrates a link between Diacamba exposure and birth defects. This exposure is in humans applying Dicamba. The likely hood of birth defects would there for be increased in the case of consumption, like with deer, moose, and antelope eating Dicamba treated foliage.

Many of the deer along this stretch of highway frequent road side licks from early spring until late into summer. This behavior has been seen on Utah’s highway 6, and in Thompson Falls MT, as well as other places across the West. Based on other instances of this road side “salt” lick behavior Josh Leavitt devised an experiment to see what may be bringing these deer into these particular licks. Several forms of minerals were placed at two different licks to see if there was a preference one particular mineral. Selenium amended salt, copper amended salt, plain magnesium chloride, salt and magnesium chloride, and plain salt were tested against each other. What ultimately had the highest draw was magnesium chloride mixed with the native soil, with mag chloride in salt coming in second.

The magnesium chloride ends up on the side of the road in the form of deicer that is sprayed or spread on the highway. The need for magnesium is not fully understood. One possibility is that these deer need the magnesium because they have disrupted thyroids. Thyroid disruption can create a higher demand for several micro nutrients like magnesium.  Magnesium works with thyroxine, a thyroid hormone also known as T4.

The sides of highway 39 are sprayed with at least two different pesticides. Along with spraying there is a power line right of way that gets sprayed. The power line runs near and crosses the highway several times. There is also a gas pipe line right of way that is adjacent to one of the magnesium licks where it crosses 39. The right away appears to have been treated with herbicides prior to its reseeding.

Below is an image of a moose on the side of Highway 39 that has just preferentially fed on a herbicide treated tree.