Rare deer bagged near Barwick

Former Fort Frances residents Jon and James Rousseau came upon a very unusual sight late last month while driving through Barwick.
They spotted a piebald deer.
“We thought it was a goat out in the field until it poked its head up in the air and we saw it was with other deer,” laughed Jon Rousseau.
Piebald deer are quite rare, making up less than one percent of white-tailed deer herds. They have some brown and white spots, similar to a pinto horse.
And their eyes look as if they are brown instead of pink, as true white or albino deer would appear.
Partial albinos—which retain some pigmentation—are more common than full albinos.
In addition to its coloration deficiency, many piebald deer have skeletal deformities such as short legs, bowing of the nasal bone, arching of the back bone, and heart defects.
The Ministry of Natural Resources thought the doe was special enough to take hair, blood, and meat samples for analysis.
The white deer is protected in 12 U.S. states, including Tennessee and Wisconsin. The white moose in Newfoundland also is protected.
The white deer also holds an honoured spot in some native tribes. White or albino animals, in general, are held sacred as harbingers of good fortune.
The Sioux honour the white buffalo and many tribes hold the white bear in great respect.
Native Americans traditionally believe man communicates with the Creator through interaction with nature. White creatures were—and still are—particularly revered in most Indian cultures.
In 1994, the “White Buffalo Legend” was resurrected when a white buffalo calf was born on a Texas farm. Her name is “Miracle,” and she has become the living symbol of hope, rebirth, and unity for the Great Plains tribes.
Some people are superstitious about harming them because of the creatures’ revered and somewhat mystical status in the minds of many people.
But not the Rousseaus. James Rousseau didn’t have a tag this year so Jon was the one who bagged it. He’s not superstitious about the lore at all.
“The odds are the piebalds don’t live as long because they don’t have any protection from predators,” he said.
A true albino occurs in about one of 100,000 births and very few survive beyond the first year of life, as Rousseau indicated. There are statistics that say a person has a one-in-a-million chance of seeing an albino buck in the wild but no figures were given for does.
All cases of true albinism are due to the lack of pigmentation in the hair, skin, and, in the case of deer, the iris of the eyes. Some deer, like the one the Rousseaus spotted, can be all white yet not considered albino if their paleness is caused by a different genetic mutation for hair color.
A partial mutation of this sort results in brown and white piebald specimens, which are more prevalent in the wild.
Rousseau has received some attention because of his trophy. “An American museum wanted it but I told them no,” he said.
Rousseau is going to keep it at Verne’s Minnows, his bait and tackle shop in Ignace. But the general public will have to wait to catch a glimpse of the doe.
The piebald won’t be ready for mounting for another six months. Hawkin’s Taxidermy in Winnipeg is working on it.