Albino deer: Rare and protected
White, pink-eyed deer are illegal to hunt.
JOHN BRONZCapital News Service
LANSING -- Deer hunters are scouring the woods to find the elusive buck, but a lucky hunter may end up with a rare sight, an albino deer.
American Indian cultures view the deer as a favorable sign for the tribe or the earth, and regard the color white as a sign of purity and healing."The albino was sent by the creator," said Hannahville Indian Community cultural director and spiritual leader Earl Meshigaud of Wilson. "The spiritual leader of the tribe would determine if the change was with earth or the village, but it's a positive message."
The all-white, pink-eyed deer -- which are illegal to hunt -- are born only about one in 30,000 births, depending on how many deer in the area have the dominant genes for albinism. They lack pigments that color eyes, hair and skin.
In addition, predators are able to hunt them more easily than other prey because they don't have their natural camouflage. Hunters also accidentally or purposefully shoot them.
"Albino deer in suburbs usually have a higher survival rate because there is less hunting and natural predation. In northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, you are less likely to see an albino because of hunting and predation," said Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife research specialist Brent Rudolph.
Bloggers share their photos of albino deer on the Web. Reports of sightings have come from all over Michigan, from Saline to Cheboygan County.
Spotters even use motion-detection trail cams to detect the elusive albino. Many sites have photos, video and illustrations of the deer.
"If the albino makes it past the fawn stage and first year, they can survive as well as any other deer," said Rudolph. "But that is not favorable due to their coloration."
To find out if an albino deer has been seen nearby, call the local DNR field office, because the DNR doesn't track those statistics, Rudolph said.
DNR wildlife technician Valerie Frauley, based in Lansing, said that killing a deer with an all-white coat or an albino deer in Michigan is illegal.
The difference between an all-white deer and an albino deer is the eyes. An all-white deer's eyes are black and the albino's eyes are pink. It is legal to hunt piebald deer, which have spots of white fur on their brown coats
The fine for killing an albino or all-white deer varies from $200-$1,000. In addition, the courts will determine the value of the dead deer, which the hunter must pay. Poachers also lose their hunting privileges for three years.
The only other states with laws against hunting albino deer are Illinois, Iowa, Tennessee, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
(On a personal note, I have a photo of an albino deer in amongst a "regular herd" of deer. It was taken by one of our guests from over by the Rudyard/Pickford area)
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