The white-tailed deer population has been on quite a ride over the past century. Historical reports indicate that whitetail populations were nearly extirpated within the United States by the early 1900’s. Fast forward a hundred years, add in regulated hunting, deer management efforts and the fact that only about 8 percent of the people in the U.S. hunt, and it is not uncommon to surf the web, pick up a newspaper or drive down the road to see another instance of deer overpopulation in both rural and suburban areas.
As the number of suburban areas have increased in Texas—and elsewhere—the whitetail populations found within them have grown proportionally, sometimes exponentially. Suburban deer overpopulation is literally a growing problem, but listen closely to any debate related to controlling a suburban whitetail population and you will soon find that for every person that wants to control deer through shooting, trapping, etc., there are others that want to protect them. Continue reading “Suburban and Melanistic Whitetail Deer”
The majority of white-tailed deer have brown and white hair, but piebald deer are beautiful animals possessing white and brown fur in random patterns similar to that of a paint horse. I know of very few piebald deer that have been harvested in Texas, but the photos seen here are making their way around the internet with claims that this big piebald buck was shot somewhere in east Texas. The location varies between Corsicana and Palestine.
Although both of the claims could have been false, I knew this abnormally colored buck was not harvested in Corsicana simply because there are no pine stands within 50 miles of the town, maybe more. Palestine, on the other hand, has pine forests and plenty of them. After a little more research, I discovered that this piebald trophy was actually harvested the first weekend of the General Season, but it was in fact taken near Palestine. The big-bodied deer was right at 200 pounds on the hoof — and is definitely a unique buck!
While “black” deer, more accurately referred to as melanistic deer, are very rare across North America, it seems they are being spotted more frequently in central Texas. A few weeks ago I posted some photos of a melanistic buck in Austin, Texas, but it seems that animal is not the only white-tailed deer in the area with a color abnormality. Just check out the photos of these twin white-tailed deer fawns that were taken in the Northwest Hills area of Austin.
Dr. John Baccus, director of the wildlife ecology program at Texas State University, has been studying melanistic deer for over 13 years now. And as it turns out, Texas is a good place to study the dark colored deer. That’s because there just happens to be more black deer in eight Texas counties than in the rest of the world combined!
Black Deer are Really Rare
And as staggering as that statistic may be, most Texans still haven’t seen one! There may be more abnormally dark white-tailed deer in the central part of Texas than everywhere else combined, but don’t go there expecting to see one.
Dr. Baccus had this to say about Texas’ melanistic deer:
“Even though we have more melanistic deer here than in the whole world, they’re still extremely rare. It’s the rarest of the white-tailed deer, even rarer than the big-antlered deer. I get the harvest records every year from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and generally, there are fewer than five of these melanistic deer that are harvested in any given year.”
When it comes to white-tailed deer, we all know how they are supposed to look. Most are brown and white. But occasionally in nature we get genetic abnormalities and end up with something that looks totally different — which is usually white (albino) or even more rare, black. All mammals, including white-tailed deer, can have black fur and these animals are referred to as melanistic.
They are called melanistic because their body produces too much melanin, a dark pigment that causes their hair to be very dark brown or black. This variation is obvious to even a casual observer, but I’m not sureit impacts the deer itself or if the difference is even noticed by other animals in the herd.
Melanistic whitetails are the most rare color abnormality that deer can have — even more rare than piebald or albino deer. The photos seen here were sent to me and they allegedly came from somewhere around Austin, Texas. The photos are that of a melanistic white-tailed buck. The pictures where taken in a residential area so this rare buck may have lucked out.
Anyone that has spent any amount of time chasing white-tailed deer has always wondered what deer are doing out there on a day to day basis. You’ve probably thought about this more than once after attempting to chase down a big buck you spotted earlier in the year. But what about white deer, particularly albinos?
Deer have a hard enough life as it is, but being a white deer in the woods would not be an advantage — except during the winter in snow-covered areas. As such, nature has virtually eliminated the color white from a white-tailed deer except for the underparts of the body. It’s just not an advantage to be totally white in the woods with coyotes, mountains lions, and hunters running around chasing after you! With that said, I’m always interested to see pictures of albino deer, but I’ve never seen a live one.
Usually, I end up with photos of albino deer. And here are a couple I received via email. I’m not sure where they were taken, but judging from the physical aspects of these animals (and the snow) these albino deer photos were taken somewhere in the northern US or Canada. This is all I have:
“Tim made the deer feeder with the ‘Browning’ logo. These twin albinos have been coming to our backyard since they were fawns in 2006. We have been trying to capture a digital pic of them for awhile, but they arrive at dusk or even later and they don’t turn out. On Friday about 10 am they arrived.”
More Albino Deer Photos: