Though nowhere near the state with the highest deer population, Montana is home to over half a million of the hoofed mammals. Needless to say, seeing a deer in Montana is far from unusual. That said, the vast majority are brown. So while spotting a deer isn’t out of the ordinary, seeing a black or white deer is incredibly rare.
This is because both white and black deer are the result of a genetic mutation. But while black deer are caused by melanism, white deer are the result of albinism. The chances of seeing an albino deer in the wild are slim to none, as fewer than 2% are white.
As one would expect, Greg Roset, a Montana native who’s spent his retirement honing his skills in wildlife and landscape photography, had never seen such a deer.
That is until one fateful afternoon when he was snapping pictures in his hometown of Billings and caught a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – capturing a picture of an albino deer.
“I just like to pull over and take a picture from the road. I think that’s the wonderful thing about Montana, you don’t have to go on hikes into deep wilderness areas to see wildlife,” Roset told KBZK. “I’ve never seen another albino of anything in the wild, so it’s pretty rare to see. It’s pretty exciting to see one in such closer proximity.”
Montana Wildlife Expert Sheds Light on Albino Deer
For Greg Roset, the unexpected albino deer sighting was the result of years of careful attention paid to his surroundings to capture the perfect shot. “Well we were coming home from our grandson’s football game,” he recalled. “And we happened to see what we thought was a white garbage sack on the field, but then the ear moved.”
“It’s amazing how many cars drive by that area,” Roset continued. “There must’ve been 40 or 50 cars that went by and probably didn’t even know what I was doing out there.”
According to Chrissy Webb, a representative from Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, the photographer is likely even luckier than he imagined. “Some research says [albino deer are] as common as one in every 10,000. Some research says it’s as common as one in every 100,000. So, there is a pretty wide range,” Webb explained.
Though albino deer would be rarer than the typical brown variety regardless, their numbers are even fewer because of their bright coloration. While brown deer can easily camouflage themselves in the forest, white deer stand out, making them more susceptible to predators.
“The condition comes with a lot of physical disabilities as well,” Webb said. “If they’re albino, they can be more susceptible to predation because they stick out so much on the landscape.”