Albino Deer

Traffic slowed on the highway. Neighbors out for a walk stuck around for the show. Word of the albino deer got around quickly through July.

Many evenings…and occasionally around dawn…the snow white deer, with pink inner ears, nose and eyes, would be grazing in a just cut hay field, four miles west of Solon on County Road F-16, near the main entrance of Lake Macbride State Park.

Might the doe have a fawn in the woods or grassy waterway behind her? That was answered, as a small fawn bounced ahead of her one evening, cutting quickly into the grass. The doe turned sharply into the grass at the same spot.

“An albino deer is very rare; chances of one occurring are 1 in 100,000 or higher”, noted Willie Suchy; wildlife research supervisor for the
Department of Natural Resources. “Each parent of an albino must carry the gene. It’s a combination of gene alignment that causes it.”



In the wild, albinism is a curse. If an animal doesn’t blend into its surroundings, it soon becomes a meal. Suchy says there is also indication that albinos may carry other recessive traits that affect their health; thus leading to a shorter life span.

DNR deer research biologist Tom Litchfield estimates he gets half a dozen calls of ‘white deer’, each year. Some may be the same animal. Some are not albinos; but perhaps fallow deer; a non-native species whose colors range from white to piebald to darn brown. Fallow deer are common in deer farm settings…and occasionally one will wander away.

This one seems to be a whitetail. And that would make her ‘off limits’ when Iowa’s hunting seasons get underway. In an emotional reaction to a white deer being killed in the 1980s, the Iowa Legislature made it illegal to take a ‘predominantly white, whitetail deer’.