More people report seeing albino deer in Cape Girardeau

Monday, November 23, 2009
David Ford submitted this photo of an albino deer to semissourian.com. Ford said he's seen the four-point buck a few times in Cape Girardeau.

While deer are not uncommon in Cape Girardeau, the appearance of a rare albino deer is causing some residents to do a double take.

"I was heading out of town when I saw him," said David Ford of Cape Girardeau. "He was across a field and started walking toward the truck. He got about 30 feet from the truck. One of the guys with me thought it was a goat."

Ford said he saw the deer on Old Sprigg Road, where the animal was feeding. He said he has seen the four-point buck a few times in that area.

Cape Girardeau County Conservation officer Russell Duckworth said albino deer are not common.

"They are rare," he said. "You see one every now and again. I am 40 and I have only seen two live albino deer in my life."

He said less than one percent of deer are born albino.

Duckworth said there are varying degrees of albinism. Many deer will have large patches of white, but still retain normal characteristics. A true albino deer will be solid white and have red eyes. Duckworth said he has seen video footage of the deer in the Cape Girardeau area and said it is possible it is an albino.

"It appears to be solid white, but I have not been able to see the eyes," he said.

Albino deer are less likely to live as long as other deer.

"They are more noticeable in the wild. Their white coat makes it more difficult to hide from predators," Duckworth said.

In addition to human hunters, coyotes, bobcats and dogs pose a threat to deer.

Last year Cape Girardeau residents reported seeing an albino deer near Mount Auburn Road. Duckworth said it is probably the same deer people are seeing this year.

"I can't say for certain, but if the deer is in the same area as before, chances are it is the same animal," he said. "It would be unlikely to have two different albino deer in the area."

Albino deer pass along the recessive gene that causes the distinctive white coloring, making it possible that last year's deer produced an offspring with the same traits.

Cape Girardeau resident Sara Saupe recently spotted the deer on Mount Auburn Road.

"It was near a Lutheran church on Mount Auburn at 8:15 p.m.," she said. "It was eating grass near a residential field."

Sightings of the deer increase during the fall, and that is typical of all deer, Duckworth said.

"It is breeding season," he said. "The leaves are falling from the trees and the deer are not as well hidden. They are also feeding and storing food reserves."

The increased activity of hunters also makes them more active.

Duckworth said that despite the rarity of the albino deer, there are no special restrictions regarding hunting.

"It is just another deer. It is legal to harvest it," he said.

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