Seen A Piebald Deer Lately?
Most of us have never laid eyes upon a piebald deer, and might not believe what we see if we see one. The animal is somewhat of a rarity, though a little more common than one might think. We usually associate the term piebald with horses, though we normally refer to such horses as pintos, paints, or Appaloosas. A piebald animal is one whose hair or fur has a spotted, rather than a solid color pattern.
There are 5 species of deer native to North America, the whitetail deer, the mule deer, the caribou, the elk and the moose. Most if not all sightings of piebald deer have involved the whitetail deer. Sightings have occurred in many parts of the United States and Canada, from the West coast to the East coast. Texas seems to have a particularly large concentration of piebald deer, if one can call once-in-a-lifetime sighting characteristic of a large concentration.
Most whitetail deer, like the ones who like to play games running in front of speeding automobiles, are either reddish-brown or gray in color, or somewhere in between. Some whitetail are fairly light in color and some darker, but there are rare instances where deer have been observed that are either completely white or nearly black.
Abnormal coloring in a deer is usually due to the presence of a defective gene. Consequently, some of these abnormally colored deer exhibit other abnormal characteristics as well. Piebald deer, together with some of the other odd color combinations are generally not as healthy as the whitetail deer having normal coloration.
Piebald Deer - Most, if not all piebald deer have white legs and a white underbelly, while the rest of the body may be either completely or partially covered with patches or spots, usually reddish brown or gray on white. A few piebald deer are mostly, though usually not completely white, and may be mistaken at times for albino deer.
White Deer And Albino Deer - There are all-white deer as well. These deer have no spots, just white hair. White deer also have a recessive gene and are generally not as healthy or strong as a normally colored whitetail. White deer are naturally easily mistaken for albinos, which they are not. The true albino, besides having all white hair, also has pink eyes and pink hooves, something the white deer do not have. Both the white deer and the albino deer, and perhaps, to a lesser extent the piebald deer, are at a disadvantage in the wild as they are easily spotted except in conditions of heavy snow. This lack of visual protection, combined with somewhat poorer health, no doubt serves to keep the population of these abnormally colored deer low.
Melanistic Deer - There is one other rare coloration that should not be ignored in any discussing of strangely colored or patterned deer, and that is the melanistic deer. The melanistic deer is almost the opposite of the white deer. An excess of pigmentation yields a deer which is very dark brown to almost black in color. Of all the abnormally colored deer, or at least of all of those in North America, the melanistic deer is the rarest.
Keep Your Eyes Open - The few hunters who have managed to take one of these rare deer generally head straight for the nearest taxidermist. Most of us would probably do the same, even if we “took” the animal with the front grill of the family car. At least, the piebald, albino, or white deer will generally be easier to spot at the side of the road. When viewing images of some of these deer, especially the piebald deer, one can say that almost without exception, truly beautiful animals. Perhaps someday we'll hear a first report of, or see a picture on YouTube of, a piebald moose.