SOLON– Traffic slowed on the highway. Neighbors out for a walk stuck around for the show, too, In the first days of July, word of the albino deer got around quickly.
For several evenings in a row, and occasionally around dawn, the snow white deer, with pink inner ears and nose, would be grazing in a just-cut hay field four miles west of Solon on County Road F-16, next to Twin View Heights.
The mature deer had no antler growth, so it was referred to as ‘she.’ Might the doe have a couple of fawns in the woods or grassy waterway behind her? Through spring, it was routine to see a few deer grazing in the field. With routine brown coats, though, they didn’t rate much more than a glance. Perhaps the flooding through late Spring pushed the albino out of her home range.
“An albino deer is very rare; chances of one occurring are 1 in 100,000 or higher,” noted Willie Suchy, wildlife research supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Each parent of an albino must carry the gene. It’s a combination of gene alignment that causes it.”
In the wild, albinism is a curse. If an animal doesn’t blend into its surroundings, it soon becomes a meal. Suchy says there is also indication that albinos may carry other recessive traits that affect their health; thus leading to a shorter life span.
DNR deer research biologist Tom Litchfield estimated he gets half a dozen calls of white deer each year. Some may be the same animal. Some are not albinos; but perhaps fallow deer; a non-native species whose colors range from white to piebald to darn brown.
Whatever her background, this one is off limits when Iowa’s hunting seasons get underway. In an emotional reaction to a white deer being killed in the 1980s, the Iowa Legislature made it illegal to take a ‘predominantly white, whitetail deer.’