What Are These Pale Colored Mule Deer Spotted in Colorado?
If you have lived in Colorado very long then you have probably seen a mule deer or several. They are the common brownish-gray deer that we see. In fact, even though numbers have declined in the last few years, there are still around 400,000 mule deer roaming around Colorado.
So, as mentioned the common brownish-gray deer is what we usually see, but every once in a while nature throws a color curve ball right?
There have been several Colorado sightings lately of white or blonde-colored deer hanging out in herds of regular mule deer. These are called leucistic deer.
Leucistic deer have dark noses, dark hooves, and good eyesight. This is not the case for albino deer. Albino deer have poor vision, pink eyes, and white hooves.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife say this coloring is "not to be confused with albinism, leucism is a partial loss of pigmentation resulting in white, pale, or patchy coloration of the skin or hair but not the eyes."
So what causes this loss of pigmentation? CBS News reported that "leucism is a general term for the phenotype resulting from defects in pigment cell differentiation stemming from excessive inbreeding."
Well, perhaps there was a lot of that going on last year because there seem to be more sightings recently than usual.
Unfortunately, "deer experts have suggested that a high percent of leucistic deer have health issues and are much more vulnerable to animal predators and hunters; most don't survive their first year" according to CBS News. This would explain why seeing them is rare.