When we think of winter, we often think of white: snow, ice, and clouds. But an unusual white creature is roaming the grounds of the Ashland Nature Center this winter– a partially white deer!
Known as a piebald, partially-white deer are the result of a genetic abnormality cause by a recessive gene. Less than 1% of the white-tailed deer in a population may exhibit this condition. Studies have shown that some piebalds may have other genetic abnormalities that may affect their health, and certainly the white coloration makes them more noticeable to predators.
Some piebald deer may have very limited amounts of white, while others may be almost completely white. Piebalds all have brown eyes, black noses, and dark hooves, a distinction from a true albino deer that would have red eyes, a pink nose, and pink hooves.
The deer at Ashland appears to be a doe fawn, probably born this past June and weighing about 60 pounds by now. This deer is white from the tail up to the front shoulders, but has a brown neck and head. She is usually seen in the afternoons, browsing in the floodplain meadow across from the nature center in the company of 8-10 other deer. From a distance, she looks like a ghost drifting through the meadow!