Don’t Freak Out if You See These Unusually Colored Deer Around Central New York
With all the talk of deer disease over the last few years, it's easy to be concerned when you see an unusually colored deer. Don't be, it's a "gene thing" causing the discoloration. In fact, there's a similarity between why these deer have white splotches and the American Eagle has a white or "bald" head.
New York's DEC has been battling to keep Chronic Wasting Disease and Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease to a minimum in the deer herd and there have even been recent reports of the animals testing positive for Coronavirus. So it would be easy to see odd colored animals and think, "What the..."
Our wildlife photographer, William Straite captured photos of these discolored deer. He then swapped the camera lens for his science hat to explain the phenomenon, caused by "three Recessive Genes called Albinism, Leucism, and Piebaldism."
Albinism is a well-known condition that results in the complete absence of Melanin which causes the absence of color in the skin, hair, and eyes of the affected animal. Simply put they are extremely white with pink eyes and are subject to severe sunburn.
Leucism is only a partial loss of Pigmentation effecting the skin, hair, and feathers but it does not affect the pigment in the eyes, thus they have normally colored eyes. They are also at risk of severe burns from the sun.
Piebaldism is a partial subcategory of Leucism that only effects swatches of skin causing patterning of their normal hair color mixed with areas of white, but again they have normally colored eyes.
William adds the three genes are rare but can be found in a variety of animals and birds. For an animal to show the discoloration, both parents must pass on the gene, if only one parent has it, the gene is passed on unnoticed. In some even rarer cases the deer may have health issues. Usually, they live a normal life span. However the discoloration makes them more susceptible to prey because of an inability blend in with their surroundings.
These deer may be faced with health issues depending on the extend of the genetics but many of them are capable of living a normal life span but due to the inability to hide or blend in, they easily and quickly become easy prey.
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