(EnviroNews California) — Hayfork, California — With people staying inside during the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been a good number of extraordinary animal sightings in cities around the world. According to the BBC, dolphins have gone further into the Bosphorus in Instanbul. Wild boars are emboldened and more prevalent in the Israeli city of Haifa. Cougars roamed the streets of Santiago, Chille, before they were captured and released back to their natural habitats. However, when Emerson Urry, the Editor-in-Chief at EnviroNews, spotted a pure white deer crossing the road in front of him on a wildlife outing, he had to do a double take.
“At first I thought it was like a huge white dog crossing the road in front of me — maybe a Newfoundland or something. But as I approached, it became clear it was a young buck — a glowing white buck,” said Urry. He was driving about a mile outside of Hayfork, California on April 29, 2020, when he was able to catch the white deer and its brown companion on his new Samsung s20 8K phone.
Several cultures have stories, legends, and beliefs about white animals and white deer. In some Native American cultures, the white deer is a sign of something coming. The elders would gather to seek the meaning of the animal. The Native Americans, who lived near Onota Lake, considered the white deer a good omen. Legend has it that when it drank from the lake, the tribe was sure to have a good year. The Chickasaw consider the white deer sacred and value its hide for wedding dresses.
“This white one represents the sacredness of all living things and they should be left alone, never hunted or bothered. When we see them, we should take notice of our own spirituality and think about where we are with it,” said a Lac du Flambeau elder in White Deer: Ghosts of the Forest by Jeff Richter and John Bates, as quoted by Protect the White Deer.
King Arthur chases, but never captures, a white stag. In Scotland, it is bad luck to kill a white deer, and the Celts believed they were messengers sent to tell of changes coming to the viewer’s life. Christianity believes St. Hubert became a convert after encountering one of the creatures.
In several states, it’s illegal to kill the animals, and in those states where it’s not illegal, it’s considered bad luck. In New York, the closed Seneca Army Depot serves as a nature preserve, where National Geographic says there are more than 70 roaming its acreage.
Albino animals in the wild are rare and usually do not survive long after birth. True albinos are deprived of their natural camouflage, which makes them prime targets for predators, and they typically have poor eyesight. White deer more commonly have leucism, a recessive genetic trait. Instead of the pink eyes and nose of albinism, they are brown. These deer can have varying amounts of white in their fur. They can be all white, half white, or spotted white. Those that have mixed colors in their fur are known as “piebald.”
“I think I might have seen him again out in a field, too, but it was dark and night and I couldn’t tell for sure. But I could see a white deer out there glowing,” said Urry a few days later.
This wasn’t the first time that Urry, an avid wildlife videographer, had seen a rare deer in the wild. In the late 1990s, he saw a black deer while he was hiking Malan’s Basin above Ogden, Utah. The remote area is rarely visited by people because of the “grueling hike of several miles with steep switchbacks.” Black deer, known as “melanistic” or “melanic,” are rarer than albino deer, and according to North American Whitetail, “only a few research biologists ever have observed one in the flesh.” Most of melanic deer live in Central Texas. Researchers believe the deer survive better there than in other places because of the dark terrain.
Urry’s encounter isn’t the first time a black deer has been sighted in the state of Utah though. A beloved black deer named Coal was frequently spotted by locals in southeastern Utah. Sadly, in late Jan. 2020 he was found dead from chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the yard of a Moab resident. EnviroNews has reported extensively on the threats of this 100 percent fatal disease plaguing America’s cervid herds and threatening the environment at large.
Besides Urry’s white deer encounter, several other recent sightings, and subsequent video recordings, of white cervids have been circulating around social media during the pandemic lockdown. One video, published by Fox 26 Houston titled simply, “Albino Deer Sighting,” features two adorable white fawns with their mother curiously exploring “a Missouri woman’s backyard.”
In another video taped in 2017 by Hans Nilsson for Storyful, a breathtaking clip of a pure white moose from Sweden crossing a river is showcased. The clips has drawn acclaim around the world.
An amazing mother and calf giraffe pair was also featured on EnviroNews World News back in 2015.
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