Beautiful Photos Show Majestic White Deer in Snowy New York

A majestic white deer has been spotted in West Seneca, New York. Photos of the striking specimen in the snow were shared by the West Seneca Police Department on social media, which they believe to be a rare Seneca White Deer.

“They maybe just got confused by our local highway signs for ‘West Seneca’ and took the wrong exit,” they said in the post.

Hundreds of people have commented on the Facebook post and shared similar photos, suggesting that the deer is well known in the area and is at least six years old.

“He is at least six, because that’s how long I have been photographing him,” said one user.

White deer eating leaf
Photo of the rare white deer eating a leaf. The police department speculated that the animal was a Seneca white deer.
West Seneca Police Department/Facebook

Some users expressed concerns that sharing the animal’s location would encourage eager huntsmen to track it down and shoot it, but several hunters commented that this was not the case.

“[I was] always was told it’s bad luck to shoot one,” one user said.

“I am a hunter and I would never take that deer!” said another. “Beautiful! Bad mojo to take a white deer.”

The Seneca white deer belong to the largest herd of white deer in the world. They are extremely rare and are mostly found within the confines of the former Seneca Army Depot in Seneca County, New York.

Some have speculated that the animals were a victim of some freak accident in an army experiment gone wrong, or exposed to high levels of radiation from underground nuclear weapons.

However, neither of these rumors are true.

When the depot was first constructed in the 1940s, the fence built around its perimeter trapped a small herd of white-tailed deer within its walls. Some of the trapped deer had white coats due to a rare, recessive genetic variant.

Due to the isolation of the population, there was high levels of inbreeding within the herd, and more white deer were born.

Today, 300 of the 700 deer in the area have white coats.

Seneca white deer
Stock image of a Seneca white deer. The herd live within the confines of a disused army depot.
DebraMillet/Getty

Their bright coloring makes the deer easy prey for hunters and predators, which is why they are so rare in the wild.

West Seneca is a two-hour drive from the abandoned depot, which is a long way for an animal to travel undetected. Therefore, the white deer photographed here may not be a Seneca white deer at all.

The Department of Environmental Conservation told WKBW that the animal appeared to be a leucistic white deer. Leucism is a genetic condition that results in the partial loss of all biological pigments.

Leucistic animals can appear entirely white or may have small white spots and patches. Leucism is not the same as albinism, which prevents the body from producing the pigment melanin.

The key physical difference between leucistic individuals and albinos is eye color: leucism does not affect the pigment cells in the eyes, whereas albinos are known to have pink or red eyes due to their exposed blood vessels.

White deer eating
Photo of the white deer eating a leaf. The deer in West Seneca did not have pink eyes, ruling out the possibility of it being an albino.
West Seneca Police Department/Facebook

“Both leucistic and albinistic animals can be found across the landscape and are subject to the same rules and regulations promulgated for white-tailed deer hunting,” T.J. Pignataro, of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, told WKBW. “These animals tend to have high rates of mortality because they are so conspicuous to predators.

“As this is an urban/suburban area, that may be contributing to the ‘success’ of this animal as we tend to see lower mortality rates for deer in more developed areas.”

Do you have an animal or nature story to share with Newsweek? Do you have a question about white deer? Let us know via nature@newsweek.com.

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