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Deer Colors

PhotoAlbino deer are white and as rare as gold. If you ever see an all-white deer in the woods, you will be very lucky. These deer, called albino whitetails, are quite rare. Only one deer in 100,000 is born this way, say biologists. Chances of seeing one in the wild are very low. It might be easier finding a rare coin or a gold nugget in a stream.

So rare are albino deer that generations of American Indians thought them to be magical. The Indians had no way of knowing that all living things have cells, and within those cells are chromosomes and genes. Genes are what make us unique.

PhotoAlbino deer have recessive genes. Both parents must carry the gene to have an albino fawn.

Another reason albino deer are so scarce is that few survive to become adults. Unlike normal fawns born tan-colored with spots that help conceal them, all-white albino deer stand out in the woods. They are easily caught and eaten by predators. Albino whitetails also have poor eyesight, which further reduces their chance of survival.

Not every white deer you see is an albino. True albino whitetails have pink eyes and light-colored hooves. Many hunters see what they think are albino deer but are actually piebald whitetails. These animals have white as well as dark patches of hair in various amounts. Piebald deer are much more common that albino deer.

Back ToYBO Home PageThe opposite of albinism in whitetails is melanism. Melanism means an increased amount of black or nearly black pigmentation of skin, feathers or hair. Dark or even black deer are said to be melanistic. These deer have too much pigment in their eyes, hair and skin, rather than too little.

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