Some wildlife agencies treat white deer — albinos, white deer with otherwise normal pigmentation like brown eyes, and piebalds, which are a mix of white and brown like a pinto-colored horse — as untouchable.
There’s no biological reason for such rules, said Tom Litchfield, deer biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
If anything, white deer are inferior animals. According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, white deer and piebalds are “frequently associated with other harmful physical conditions, including skeletal deformities (e.g., dorsal bowing of the nose, short/deformed legs, curved spine, short lower mandible, etc.) and internal organ deformities.”
But people like them, and that makes a difference.
“These regulations all happen because a white animal sticks out, and people can latch onto it and want to protect it,” Litchfield said.
Iowa’s law against shooting white deer came about after the public “adopted” one in early 1980s. When a hunter in another part of the state shot a different white deer, state legislators passed a law that prohibited the shooting of any white deer, Litchfield said. It’s remained on the books since.
In December 2010, Oklahoma State Rep. Terry Harrison ran afoul of that state’s law requiring a special permit to kill an albino or piebald deer.