Rare albino deer seen outside Franklin

Published 9:14 am Wednesday, April 13, 2011

This rare albino deer was photographed Monday outside Franklin running alongside another deer. -- Submitted | Don Bridgers

FRANKLIN—What Don Bridgers thought was a dog turned out to be a deer — a rare albino doe.

“I seen one before,” said Bridgers, who photographed the albino on Monday outside Franklin running alongside a normal-colored doe. “They were out there romping around.”

Aaron Proctor, a wildlife biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said it’s rare to see an albino deer, which has a pink nose, white hooves and absolutely no brown. These deer lack the genes for color, and only a couple are killed annually by deer hunters in Virginia.

“It’s a genetic abnormality not found in a large percentage of the population,” Proctor said.

Piebald is another deer with abnormal genetics, but it’s a mix of white and brown and makes up less than 1 percent of the deer population. Albinos make up an even smaller portion of the population, Proctor said.

“I don’t have numbers on that,” he said.

Hunters will sometimes ask if they should kill an albino deer to prevent it from breeding. Like piebald deer, albino deer are not afforded any special protection by state regulation, and the state does not recommend these animals be protected.

“An albino and piebald could produce either a piebald or normal deer, so it’s controlled naturally,” Proctor said.

He has never seen a live albino, but has seen them at wildlife check stations.

Resident Jack Stutts believes the albino deer photographed by Bridgers is the same one he saw during the November 2009 hunting season near Franklin.

“It was born the spring of that year and was alone,” Stutts said. “I haven’t seen it since.”

He said it crossed the road in front of his vehicle and then turned around.

“I saw the whole deer,” he said. “It looked like a ghost walking in the woods.”