Each white tail deer is an individual but we rarely take the time to think of them as unique beings. An all white deer however, stands out from the herd. It is only a genetic mutation that makes it white and not brown like its herd mates. Yet this rarity makes it a remarkable individual in the eyes of humans. There have therefore, been laws and taboos against harming white pigmented deer through out history.
A full grown, white deer may well be a superior individual. He or she has had to grow up with the disadvantage of being seen more easily by predators. Full grown white deer have perhaps overcome this genetic disadvantage by having above average survival instincts and speed. One would think otherwise these individuals would be picked off early in their lives.
Technically, what these deer have is leucism, which means low pigment levels, as opposed to albinism, which is the total lack of pigment. While natural selection has not favored this leucistic mutation many people have. If we avoid shooting them, we may get more of them. This happened in Seneca, NY on the grounds of an old enclosed army depot.
Laws forbade leucistic deer from being shot. A perimeter fence kept out the majority of predators. And the small population of white deer increased to about 25% of the total herd in sixty years.
I saw my first white deer two weeks ago. He was lying dead on the side of highway 321 just outside Charlotte, NC. A big white dead deer. I thought immediately of the life lost, of the unique animal, the unique individual. Then I thought of the driver, the individual who had hit him. Couldn't he see the big white deer on the road? The one place his white coloring might have been an advantage. Could he not see the rare beauty about to be wiped out?
Then I thought to myself, why is this white one any more special than any of the other normal colored deer who die along the road ways. Were they not all equally unique in some way? Each as much an individual as the next, white or brown?
Slow down and steer clear of all the deer!