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Hunters are no threat to albino deer

Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer • Updated Jan 6, 2014 at 9:41 PM

Some recent media reports about increased sightings of albino deer in Middle Tennessee implied that the rare animals are in danger of being killed by hunters.

One person was quoted as saying hunters would consider an albino deer "a unique trophy."

I don't agree. I've been around deer hunters all of my adult life, and never once heard one say he would like to kill an albino deer -- just the opposite. Every hunter I've ever heard mention the subject said he wouldn't kill one even if it were legal.

Which  it isn't, as every responsible deer hunter knows. For many years albino deer have been protected in Tennessee.

The protective statute was passed by the State Legislature, rather than by the Tennessee Fish & Wildlife Commission which usually sets hunting and fishing regulations.

The albino deer protection bill (TCA 70-4 130) is unique because it is the only specific game-management law ever implemented by the State Legislature. Normally wildlife regulations are determined by the Wildlife Commission, with Legislative oversight.

State politicians were pressured to pass the albino protection bill by animal-rights activists who believed such protection was warranted -- even though there has never been any evidence that albino deer are threatened by legal hunters.

Some of the recent media reports about an albino deer being found dead during deer season was misleading; the deer was indeed killed during deer season -- but by an automobile, not by a hunter.

Responsible hunters have known for years that it is illegal to kill an albino deer. The TWRA regulation states: "Hunting, trapping or possession of albino deer is prohibited ... an albino deer is a deer with a lack, or significant deficiency, of pigment in the skin and hair, and has pink eyes."

Even if someone did kill one, it would be impossible to have it legally mounted. Taxidermists are prohibited from mounting an illegally-killed or protected species, and to do so could cost them their license and livelihood.

I suppose there's no harm in issuing a reminder about the protected status of albino deer. However, the spin of some of the recent coverage suggested that albinos are in peril of being killed by "trophy" hunters.

No deer hunter who hunts legally is unaware of a regulation that has been in the books for years. As for someone who knows the law but elects to break it, they are defined as a poacher, not a hunter, and that's a whole separate issue.

Albino deer face no threat from legal hunters.

Some confusion about albino game animals has resulted in recent years due to the increased presence of white turkeys sprinkled among wild flocks. It is legal to kill a white or partially-white wild turkey (which aren't true albinos, but merely birds that have picked up some domestic genes.)

In fact, hunters are encouraged by the TWRA to harvest any white or partially-white turkeys in order to keep the strain of wild birds as "wild" as possible.

As for white deer, it's illegal to kill one, and has been for many years. Responsible hunters know the law and obey it. It's irresponsible for the media to suggest otherwise.

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