Videos: White Deer, the Ghosts of the Forest

Candice Gaukel Andrews May 11, 2017 5

Some sources say the chances of an albino deer being born are one in 20,000; others say one in 30,000. Either way, if you ever see a white deer, you’re one of the lucky few. ©Russ Amptmeyer, flickr

Throughout history, people have been fascinated by wild animals that are all white. True to tradition, in Wisconsin, where I live, residents have a special affinity for and pride in the albino white-tailed deer herd that lives in our Northwoods.

Many Wisconsin Native American tribes have ancient stories about white deer, so it seems that albino deer have been in Wisconsin as long as white-tailed deer have been here. Encounters with solid white deer were also documented in journal entries by early European explorers in our big woods country. What we don’t know is why such an unusually high number of albino deer now live near one particular northern Wisconsin town: Boulder Junction.

According to biologists, the recessive gene that causes albinism in white-tailed deer is very uncommon: the chances of an albino deer being born are only one in 20,000. In addition, the solid white coats of the deer make them more susceptible to attack from predators, dramatically decreasing their overall survival rate.

It takes two albino parents, one albino and one brown parent with an albino gene, or two brown parents—each carrying a recessive white gene—to produce a rare, albino fawn. Albino deer often have brown fawns. ©From the video “Ghost Deer Suzy Brings Her Fawns to the Meadow” by mmnorthwoods

Perhaps that’s why we Wisconsinites are so protective of these “ghosts of the forest.” Although there’s a long-standing deer-hunting tradition here, albinos are off-limits. We have laws to protect them; the 2016 Wisconsin deer hunting regulations specially state, “Albino and white deer may not be harvested.”

Some Native Americans saw all-white animals during vision quests. You can see a few of Wisconsin’s albino deer in the two videos below. In the first, several of these deer wander through the forest near Boulder Junction in winter. In the second, an albino mother brings her two playful, brown-colored fawns to a Wisconsin meadow in summer.

In any season, spotting these stunning deer is an unforgettable experience. They certainly are ethereal visions.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,

Candy

 

5 Comments »

  1. Sarah Conkle May 30, 2017 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    We have one here in Youngstown, too.

  2. Peggy Ann Goldsberry May 15, 2017 at 7:46 am - Reply

    Amazing.

  3. John Daly May 13, 2017 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    Stunning.

  4. Candice Gaukel Andrews May 11, 2017 at 9:26 am - Reply

    I hadn’t seen that particular article, Thomas. Thanks for letting us know about those links! This piece was a adjunct to the “Wild, White Animals” article posted here on May 2 (http://goodnature.nathab.com/being-white-in-the-wild-in-a-world-that-wrongs-difference/). Those white ravens look pretty amazing. Thanks, again, for adding to the “conversation”! —C.G.A.

  5. Thomas Sawyer May 11, 2017 at 9:23 am - Reply

    They certainly do blend in well with the snow. National Geographic as you probably know, has an interesting story on pale/albino colored animals> http://news.nationalgeographic.com/…/061528-giraffes…/

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