Albino deer disappear

Cole Anderson, General Reporter

As spring weather returns to campus, whitetail deer sightings are likely to increase. The two albino whitetail fawns were one of the most discussed topics among students at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in the 2014-2015 school year. However, in the spring of 2015, these albino deer seemed to vanish.

The two albino fawns, along with their mother, first showed up on the UW-Platteville campus in June of 2014. Kirk Osborne, a UW-Platteville Police Officer, was one of the first people to see them on campus.

“The first time we saw them, was actually the day after the tornado,” Osborne said.  The tornado that hit on June 16, 2014, seemed to push the albino deer into the heart of campus.

UW-Platteville police officers had seen the deer a few times before they were able to capture them on camera months later. The UW-Platteville Police Facebook page first revealed the rare sighting to the public on Aug. 8, 2014. Osborne was able to capture one of the albino fawns on video that day. He said that both of the albino fawns were born in the spring of 2014.

Not even two weeks later Osborne spotted them again and was able to take another video. Once the video was posted on the UW-Platteville Police Facebook page, it reached thousands of people in just a short amount of time. According to Osborne, over 63,000 people saw the video. That number is more than the current population of Grant County, which is currently just over 51,000.

The albino deer eventually became a part of the regular setting for students on campus. The albinos, along with many other deer, seemed to take refuge throughout UW-Platteville. One region in particular the deer would prefer to bed down was the wooded area between Greenwood Cemetery and Bridgeway Commons.

Bobby McNeill, a sophomore majoring in business, would regularly see the deer when passing by.

“I would always stop and check out the deer, and if the albinos were nearby, I would usually snap a picture,” McNeill said. McNeill was one of many students fascinated with the rare albino deer occupying the UW-Platteville campus.

April 19, 2015, was the last sighting of either albino whitetail for the UW-Platteville police department. The two fawns had reached approximately 1 year of age at that point and had likely chosen to relocate.

Bob Roe, a Wisconsin DNR wildlife technician, believes that the two fawns did in fact relocate in the spring of 2015.

Roe, who was very familiar with the albino fawns on campus, said that if they were buck fawns (young male deer), they likely would move 3-8 miles from where they were born.

However, if either of them were females, it would be a different story.

“If it is a doe fawn, it will stick around and stay in town probably,” Roe said. When reviewing several pictures of the fawns, Roe believed he could see dark spots on the top of their heads, indicating antler growth.

Roe also believes that this will not be the end of albino deer sightings for Platteville.

“Once the gene is expressed in the population, you will likely see more albinos,” Roe said. Although the mother doe of the fawns is not albino, she is now carrying the gene.

“It’s just a matter of when that [gene] gets expressed,” Roe said.

A large topic of discussion throughout the city of Platteville in 2014 was the albino whitetail buck hit and killed on U.S. Highway 151, near Ubersox Chrysler in Platteville.

“Somebody hit it right on the onramp in the middle of the night,” Roe said. He believes that this albino buck most likely fathered several fawns in the area. The buck was believed to be 2.5 years old when killed.

Although the albino deer have seemed to disappear for now, there are many other whitetail deer that are currently occupying campus. Emily Simon, a sophomore majoring in Industrial Engineering, said she consistently sees whitetails on campus.

“I see a lot of deer hang out in the brush across from Rountree,” she said. Simon believes they prefer this area due to the essential water source.

There have not been any recent sightings of albino deer in Grant County. However, the gene is being carried in several deer throughout the area, and it could only be a matter of time before another one pops up.

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