Village resident Jeannie Bourne got a long-awaited photo last week when she snapped a picture of what she believes is a true albino deer in her backyard.
Jim Crum, wildlife biologist for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said true albinism is “uncommon” among deer – about one in every 100,000. Albinism, which affects nearly every species of animal, including humans, is characterized by a lack of pigment, said Gary Sharp of the WVDNR.
The local deer’s antlers and coat are completely white, and only its nose, the inside of its ears and eyes are pink. Crum said pink eyes are a good indicator of true albinism.
Bourne said she’s spotted the snow white animal several times in recent months, and kept a camera in her kitchen in hopes of capturing an image of the deer. Last week, she and her husband Chuck were finishing dinner when they glimpsed it drinking from a pond on their property.
She quickly grabbed the camera and ran outside, not even stopping to put shoes on. After getting within 50 feet of the animal, she snapped a photo before the animal ran down the hill behind her house.
“I’m sure he’ll be back because I have a bird feeder out,” she said, noting she hopes to see him again “when his horns are a little bigger.” The buck appears to be a six-point.
Sharp said he gets reports every year of albino deer, noting the same hunter killed one in two consecutive years in Boone County several years ago. He said the deer’s lack of camoflauge make it easier for hunters to spot them.
According to Crum, albinism is caused by a recessive gene, and is more common in areas where the deer population is “closed” and a lot of inbreeding occurs among the animals.
“Genetically, that’s not a good thing,” he said.