BROOKVILLE — It’s a rarity for hunters.
But 19-year-old Brookville native Wyatt Long saw an unusual sight on one of his most recent hunting trips.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing whenever it showed up,” Long said.
‘It’ being an albino buck, with stark-white fur and bright pink eyes.
“I was all right until after I made the shot, and then I started shaking and breathing heavy, and I got real nervous afterwards,” he said.
According to Joe Kosack, wildlife conservation education specialist with the Pennsylvania State Game Commission, there are not many albino deer in the state.
“I’ve been hunting for approximately 40 years, and I’ve only see one (albino deer),” he said. “Albino deer are extremely rare.”
Rusty Snyder, owner of the Double Diamond Deer Ranch in Cook Forest, said that only 15 percent of the deer population in the United States are classified as albino deer.
Although it’s not illegal in Pennsylvania, laws in other states, such as Tennessee, make it illegal to shoot albino deer.
According to Steve Infong, assistant chief in the Boating & Law Enforcement Division for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), a state legislator began an initiative in 2001 to ban the shooting of albino deer.
Although the TWRA opposed the bill, it was passed by the legislature.
Because albino deer cannot camoflauge as easily as other deer, they are much more subject to predators, said Regis Senko, information education supervisor for the Northwest Region of the Pennsylvania State Game Commission.
Senko also said albino deer are not common, but they are not unheard of, either.
However, sometimes hunters can confuse an albino deer for just a white deer, or a piebald deer, which is sometimes called a calico deer.
Unlike a true albino deer, which has no pigment, piebald deers usually have a brown and white spotting pattern, and white deer do not have pink eyes.
In addition, Kosack said the piebald and white deer varieties occur more often, but usually in New York state.
“There are certain geographic areas, like New York, where it is related to genetics and the potential is greater that you’ll see a white deer,” Kosack said.
Snyder, who has worked with deer for more than 20 years, said that white deer with brown eyes, which are called white white-tail deer, were genetically engineered by an army base in Seneca, N.Y., in the 1940s.
Snyder said it was a tactic in practicing bombing raids; the army base would use brown white-tail deer in the winter as they could be seen more easily against the white snow, and would use the white white-tail deer in warmer months as they could be seen more easily against the green and brown fauna.
The base stayed open until the 1990s, when it closed due to economic reasons. At that time, the base sold some of the white white-tail deer to the Pennsylvania Game Commission to release some into the wild, Snyder said.
Over her time as owner of the ranch, Snyder has owned only two albino deer, and they both had to be bought from different locations because she didn’t have the recessive gene in her herd.
The key difference between white white-tail deer and albino deer, however, is whether or not the deer has pink eyes and a pink nose.
“Sometimes people misidentify them,” Kosack said. “But if it’s just a white deer, it’s no less a trophy for the hunter that took it. The person that shoots his first deer, and it’s a four-pointer, is just as excited and proud as the person who shot his first 12-pointer.”
Long, who has been hunting since he was 12, was very proud of the albino buck he shot.
He was hunting in Baxter when he shot the 8-point buck, and it was the first deer he shot with his bow; he just took up archery this year.
“It was the first time I’ve ever heard of an albino, although others have told me they’ve seen them in the Baxter area,” Long said. “It was the first deer I shot with my bow, and I’m happy it was an albino.”
ATTENTION DEER HUNTERS
Once buck season starts Nov. 28, The Spirit welcomes hunters to bring their deer to our office along Pine Street for photos, or they may submit their own via print or e-mail.
• Hunters may bring their deer to The Spirit office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to have their photo taken by staff members. Due to poor lighting outdoors, Spirit staff members will not take deer photos after business hours.
• Black-and-white or color print photos will be accepted. Those who wish to have submitted photos returned to them should include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
• Small printed photos — and especially photos from cell phones — are not acceptable, because the quality of the photos will be compromised once they are enlarged.
As in years past, successful hunters and their deer will be featured in The Spirit throughout the season.