The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Ken Swenson of Swenson Whiteail Ranch in Orangefield has one of the most amazing deer I have ever seen.
It is a year-old albino buck named “Rusty” that is working on an impressive non-typical set of antlers. Over the years I have heard of hunters seeing “ghost bucks” or white deer they could not explain in the field and to get to look closely at one is exciting for someone who enjoys anomalies as much as I do.
There are several key explanations for potential white deer seen in the field in Texas.
On rare occasion, an albino whitetail will make it to adulthood in the wild and they are a remarkable sight. Albino whitetails are a rarity but they do exist and in my opinion, they would be the least likely source of sightings.
Think of a piebald as an animal with partial albinism or simply lack of pigment in certain areas instead of all over the body. Over the years, there have been a number of piebald whitetails harvested. We ran a photo of one in the “Critter Cam” from Orange County a few months ago.
Piebalds are also called “calico deer” and seem to be most commonly killed in the Pineywoods region of the state but they could turn up anywhere.
A high possibility for many “ghost deer” sightings in Texas is the fallow deer. Fallows come in spotted, chocolate and white varieties and there are tens of thousands of them out there.
Fallow deer come from Europe and Asia and adapted to the Texas Hill Country perfectly and there are many free-ranging specimens in Kerr, Bandera, Media and Uvalde Counties in particular. They also do well on high fenced properties in other parts of the state and often escape.
A white fallow doe spotted at a distance is virtually impossible to distinguish from a white whitetail. In fact, there was one road-killed a few miles from my home, five years ago and I had a hard time convincing people it was not a whitetail.
Fallow bucks have huge palmated antlers when mature but young bucks can have racks similar to whitetails especially when viewed at a distance. This is my number one candidate on the “ghost deer” list.
There is a variety of exotics that could potentially explain “ghost deer” sightings. As silly as it may seem a white nanny goat spotted moving at a distance could easily fool a hunter as could young scimitar-horned oryx or various species of antelope.
There is something exciting about encountering an anomaly in the wild. Seeing a deer is one thing but spotting a genetic rarity or even an escaped exotic is unexpected but always welcome.
Texas is a land of surprises so stay alert in the field, keep your eyes fixed on the edge of the wood line and you might get a glimpse of one of these mysterious ghost deer.
(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at www.klvi.com.)