White-tailed deer in Maine come in many shapes and sizes. And even in different colors.
There seems to be a special mystique involving piebald deer, those which exhibit at least some noticeable patches of white hair in their coat.
Occasionally, hunters even come across deer that display more white than their typical brown-colored hair.
Aaron Henderson of Camden recently shared a trail camera photo of a mostly white deer from the midcoast.
While a water droplet or some other phenomenon slightly blurs the right-hand side of the image, the photo clearly shows that this buck — if it survives the next two-plus weeks of deer hunting season — will feature some outstanding camouflage for the snowy winter months.
“Piebald deer have a recessive genetic trait that impacts how pigments are distributed, which can result in a wide range of variation in their coats from a few white patches to being almost totally white,” said Nathan Bieber, deer biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Bieber clarified that a deer with some white in its coat is not an albino animal. Those have a total lack of pigment.
“Albinism and melanism [black hair] appear to be quite a bit more rare, and I’ve never received a report with good pictures or video of either of those conditions,” Bieber said.
There is some superstition involved with shooting a white deer that promises bad luck for future hunts. According to protectthewhitedeer.com, some Native American cultures consider the deer sacred and a symbol of spirit.
Since piebalds can be so different from your garden variety white-tail, some folks think they should be spared becoming table fare — or a trophy. That said, the deer already face enough potential threats from harsh winters, vehicles and predators that they are not likely to be around for long.
In his Facebook post, Henderson made no bones about his intentions after seeing the photo from Nov. 18 on his camera.
“If I see him he’s down, so follow here over the next 7 years to see if I have bad luck!” Henderson joked.
One of the reasons there aren’t more piebald deer in the population is because the condition comes with other potential health consequences.
“Beyond variability in coloration, piebald deer often have other associated conditions impacting organ systems or skeletal structure, and these are often severe enough that the deer die in utero or shortly after birth,” Bieber said.
That means piebalds that reach adulthood have already overcome some significant natural challenges.
So, what would you do? Would you shoot a piebald deer?
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