From time to time hunters encounter strange “ghost deer” or mysterious white deer that seem to disappear as quickly as they show up.
Let us examine the source of some of these mysterious sightings.
On rare occasion, an albino whitetail will make it to adulthood in the wild and they are a remarkable sight. They are striking animals and over the last year, I have had the pleasure of being around one at my friend Ken Swenson’s Swenson Whitetail Ranch. Their buck “Rusty” is becoming quite an impressive specimen.
Think of a piebald as an animal with partial albinism or simply lack of pigment in certain areas instead of all over the body. Over the years, there have been a number of piebald whitetails harvested.
My father, my wife Lisa and I saw a piebald doe while hunting aoudad on a beautiful spread called the Greenwood Valley Ranch in 1993. She had big blotches on her side and several along the neck.
Piebalds are also called “calico deer” and seem to be most commonly killed in the Pineywoods region of the state but they could turn up anywhere.
When I was a kid, my father and I put together scrapbooks of wildlife and I had a small clipping of a leucistic (white) whitetail from the Seneca Army Depot in New York.
Ten years ago, Texas Fish and Game Bowhunting Editor Lou Marullo took me there and we got to see some behind their security fence as well as one free ranging a few miles from the post.
According to Senecawhitedeer.org, “The white deer found at Seneca Army Depot are a natural variation of the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), which normally have brown coloring.”
“The Seneca White Deer are leucistic, meaning they lack all pigmentation in the hair but have the normal brown-colored eyes. Albino deer, which lack only the pigment melanin, have pink eyes and are extremely rare. The Seneca White Deer interbreed freely with the brown deer in the former Depot and appear to share the habitat equally.”
They go on to say the genetics of these deer have not been studied extensively, but a recessive gene for lack of pigmentation apparently prevents normal (i.e. brown) coloration of the hair.
“Management of the white deer within the former Depot increases the proportion of deer exhibiting the trait.”
New York is not the only place leucistic deer have been found and this is another potential source for “ghost deer” in the Lone Star State.