A piebald deer browses behind the Palermo home of Rhonda Carroll. Credit: Courtesy of Rhonda Carroll

Rhonda Carroll looked out the window of her home in Palermo on Wednesday to see a piebald deer.

Against a backdrop of leafless trees and brown groundcover, the female deer showed off its milky white coat. The animal had some tan/brownish fur on its head and ears, but otherwise was mostly white.

There also appeared to be a few streaks of color on its front legs. Fewer than 2 percent of white-tailed deer exhibit these characteristics.

A piebald deer in Palermo. Credit: Courtesy of Rhonda Carroll

Carroll said the Palermo piebald deer also appeared in 2021, which means it survived the year in spite of its inability to blend in with its surroundings during the spring, summer and fall months.

The doe clearly had a huge advantage over other deer in the area during the winter, when its distinctive coat would have blended in beautifully with the snowy surroundings.

Carroll said she and her family do not hunt and that the deer probably doesn’t face significant threats from humans, as much of the surrounding land is not accessible to hunters.

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Nathan Bieber, deer biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, explained a little about deer that are mostly or partly white.

“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,” Bieber told the Bangor Daily News last year.

Bieber explained that piebalds have the deck stacked against them as they often are afflicted with conditions that impact organ systems or skeletal structure.

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“These are often severe enough that the deer die in utero or shortly after birth,” he said.

Even with those challenges, there continue to be fairy routine sightings of piebald deer in Maine. They’re another part of what makes our wildlife so special.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...