The Beautiful And Rare Albino Deer
Have you seen an albino deer lately? Many hunters probably wish they would once in a while. They make far better targets. Most hunters, or most other people for that matter, have never seen one, the reason being, albino deer are quite rare. On a statistical basis, you would have to observe about 30,000 deer to see a single albino. Few hunters see that many deer in their lifetime, and those would have to be the truly great hunters.
Definitely Not Survival Of The Fittest
This rarity is not particularly surprising. In addition to the fact that the albino deer tends to stick out somewhat in its natural surroundings, animals with albinism usually have rather poor eyesight, an additional handicap if you are trying to keep from being shot or trying to stay a safe distance from a predator. Albinism is a genetic trait, passed on from one generation to the next. In most instances, the genetic makeup of an animal is created with survival of the fittest in mind. Obviously the gene responsible for albinism does not fit in with that code. Fortunately, deer carrying the particular gene responsible for albinism make up a minority. In fact, the number is quite small, or we would see albino deer much more often. Both parents must carry the albino gene to produce an albino offspring, even though neither parent would necessarily be an albino. The offspring, and all offspring of those parents, would be albinos however. It is probably fortunate that, unlike what we may have learned from the story of Bambi, deer to not mate for life.
It’s probably worth mentioning, if you do spot an all-white deer, it is not necessary an albino. The deer would have to let you get close enough to see its eyes, nose, and hooves. If they are normally colored, the deer is not a true albino, but has white hair due to some other genetic misfire. It can probably see normally, but it still makes an excellent target.
To Shoot Or Not To Shoot
If you are deer hunting and spot an albino deer, what do you do? Do you shoot it, or leave it alone? It would make an interesting trophy, although some of your acquaintances might think shooting such a rare animal wasn’t really very nice of you. In some states or localities, it is unlawful to shoot and tag an albino deer. The reasoning behind this usually has to do with their rarity, and to some extent, their beauty. The other side of the argument is that by shooting an albino deer, you are doing the herd as a whole a favor, by eliminating an animal which carries a recessive gene, one that is not healthy for the herd as a whole.
So, what if there is no regulation against shooting one of these animals? It’s then up to the deer hunter. The hunter may decide to do the overall deer population a favor by shooting a genetic misfit. The hunter might have visions of an albino deer head, hopefully one with antlers, mounted over the fireplace mantle. Then there’s the question of what will the wife (or husband) say? What will the kids say? What will the neighbors think? Everyone may think shooting the deer was appropriate, or they may think it ranks at about the same level as shooting a unicorn would.
A Whole Herd Of Them
There is one place, and apparently only one place, in the United States, where an entire herd of albino deer is located. Although there is no solid scientific explanation for this, it could be argued that the recessive gene responsible for the albinism has taken a solid foothold within the herd. In this case, the argument that shooting one of these deer is in the best interest of the herd, falls rather flat. By the same token, the argument against shooting a rare specimen falls flat as well. The state legislature, which in this case happens to be the one in Wisconsin, has made both arguments moot, by making the shooting of these deer illegal. In addition, the people who live in the same general area of the albino herd have taken a rather protective stance towards the animals. So should you shoot one, you would not only be breaking the law, but would probably face some pretty severe social pressure as well.
Of course, deer are not the only animals where albinism is observed. There are many who have seen an albino horse or two in their lifetime, and albino animals ranging from tigers to turkeys and peacocks to gorillas, and countless species in between, have been seen at one time or another. Should these animals be done away with to help strengthen the species, should they be protected like we would protect a rare work of art, or, should they simply be left alone? The answer, if there is one, is likely not a clear cut one. If albinism in humans is taken into account, an albino human is for all practical purposes every bit as healthy as his neighbor, with the occasional exception of a vision problem, or sensitivity to UV radiation, the latter problem seldom being of much concern to our fur-bearing friends.