Recently, a friend sent me a picture she had taken of a partially albino fawn deer that was found on her lawn. My friend knew not to disturb the fawn since the doe would be nearby.
Spring is here and young wildlife will frequently be seen. When encountering young wildlife, with no mother in sight, it is often believed the animal has been abandoned. This is when some people decide to intervene. However, in most cases, these young animals have not been abandoned.
The mother is nearby but out of human sight and watching over her young from a distance. Young fawns are camouflaged, with spots, to blend in with their surroundings. This provides protection from predators. An albino or partially albino will not blend in as well and not be as well protected. A partially albino animal is known as piebald.
The word piebald originates from a combination of pie, from magpie, and bald, meaning white patch or spot. The reference is to the distinctive black-and-white plumage of the magpie. Piebald refers to the absence of mature melanin-forming cells in certain areas of the skin and hair.
It is a rare autosomal dominant disorder of melanocyte.
We humans seem to seek the unusual, such as looking for a four-leaf clover, hoping that it will bring us good luck. However, walking under a ladder, breaking a mirror or a black cat crossing our path are all considered signs of bad luck. The belief that a broken mirror brings bad luck arises from the ancient Greeks, who believed spirits lived in reflective pools of water.
The fate that awaited the Greek mythological figure Narcissus could have grown out of this belief. When Narcissus saw his reflection in the water, he fell in love. Although in the beginning, Narcissus did not realize that it was just his own reflection and fell into despair when he understood that his love could not materialize and committed suicide.
Many stories have been told of hunters shooting white deer and never being lucky enough to kill another deer during his or her remaining years of life. This superstition of shooting a white deer comes from our Native American tribes, who considered the white deer sacred and bad luck for a hunter to kill.
These white deer were often called ghost deer and were a symbol of a spirit and an omen of good luck.
Albinos are individuals that show a lack of pigmentation and thus appear white or whitish. Technically, this abnormality results from a failure of the body to produce or distribute coloring pigments to the skin, hair, or feathers. Usually, this is an inherited trait, but it can occasionally result from an accident, improper diet or even psychological shock.
Albinism is known to affect mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Of course, albinism occurs in humans as well. People with albinism are generally healthy, with growth and development occurring as normal.
However, humans will suffer from impaired vision, with varying degrees. While albinism is a condition that cannot be cured or treated, small things can be done to improve the quality of life for those affected.
Many animals, with albinism, lose their protective camouflage and are unable to conceal themselves from predators. Usually, the survival rate of animals with albinism in the wild is quite low.
Albinism had been documented in 304 different species of birds, with the American robin being the most prone. Total albinism occurs when a bird or animal is entirely lacking color, being pure white with pink eyes. A partial albino animal is known as piebald or calico, showing a complete or partial lack of coloring in certain body areas. An animal is not a true albino if it lacks pink eyes.
Bill Bower is a retired Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Officer. Read his blog and listen to his podcasts on the outdoors at www.onemaningreen.com.