Two albino fawns spotted at Greenbrier State Park

January 08, 1995|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

BOONSBORO -- The great white buffalo they're not. But two rare albino deer are attracting attention at Greenbrier State Park.

The two -- white-tailed fawns born last spring -- have been spotted frequently near the park entrance on U.S. 40 -- 10 miles east of Hagerstown -- and near a man-made lake at the 1,288-acre park in Washington County.

"To see two deer like that standing abreast in a line of trees is rather breath-taking," said Daniel P. Spedden, park manager. "It pretty much tops the highlights of my wildlife experiences."

Albinism is an unusual condition that results in a person or animal lacking normal coloration in skin, hair and eyes because of genetic factors.

Mr. Spedden, who, as a park ranger, has rescued osprey and giant loggerhead turtles, recently captured one of the deer on film after several months of watching for them in the woods. He lured the deer to his back yard with apples. He has yet to get a picture of both deer.

The fawns apparently were first noticed by Mr. Spedden's wife, Janette, and park employees, including Virginia Dowe, a camping reservationist, who spotted the pair during a routine morning walk through the park.

"I was just completely amazed," Mrs. Dowe said. "I was walking along this path and saw a white animal. I thought it was a goat. As I got a little closer, I realized it was a deer. I stopped. It stopped and looked at me and then just went on its way."

She has seen the deer several times since.

Thomas P. Mathews, wildlife manager with the Wildlife Division of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said true albino deer -- with pure white coats and pink eyes -- are rare.

"We get a report of an albino deer once every couple of years," he said. "Reports of half-white and half-browns are probably more common. It's pretty rare to see an albino deer."

Although such deer are rare, they're not revered as something sacred like the white buffalo. A rare white buffalo born on a farm last summer in Wisconsin has drawn Native Americans from across the country, who believe it to be a sacred, apocalyptic animal.

Nonetheless, Mr. Spedden suspects that news of albino at Greenbrier will attract curious animal and nature lovers.

"It's such a rarity that I think people will want to enjoy them," he said. "If they want to take pictures, they had better bring high-speed film. The light conditions are bad."

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