A man from southeastern South Dakota named Fred Bailey saw a multi-colored deer and thought it was a decoy. Then, the deer moved, and he realized that wasn’t the case. The decoy was actually a living piebald deer.
“It was on North Ohlman almost to Lake Mitchell. It was in a shelterbelt, and I drove by it and thought it was a decoy when it was standing sideways like that,” Bailey told the Mitchell Republic. “I had to back up to take the picture because I didn’t think it was real. (But) it was that close to town.”
The deer Bailey spotted seems to be a piebald white-tailed deer. These deer are distinguished from typical white-tailed deer by patches of white mixed in with their normal brown-tinted hair. Bailey took two pictures of the animal, which appeared to be in the company of another deer which contains the typical hide color.
You can see photos of the deer here.
He couldn’t say for certain, but he believes it was a white-tailed doe, except for its piebald fur. “I’m pretty sure it’s a white-tail because when it turned and trotted off — I’ve seen a lot of them over the years and it’s definitely a white-tailed, not a mule deer or anything like that,” Bailey said.
Man Describes Encounter with Piebald Deer
Bailey lives just outside of Mitchell, South Dakota and is a native of Bonesteel, South Dakota. Now 68, he says he used to hunt deer in his younger days, but he says he hasn’t hunted since the 1980s.
However, he knew this deer was different, the first of its kind that he’d ever seen. He asked his friends about it, as well, and they all said they hadn’t seen one like it.
“I talked to a lot of guys at coffee, I’m retired myself, and I probably talked to 20 or 30 people who were avid hunters and they’ve never seen anything like that. So it’s pretty unique,” Bailey said. The color variation on a piebald deer is considered a partial albinism. Some sources suggest that the genetic defect occurs in about 1 to 2% of white-tails. However, other scientists contend it’s even rarer than that.
The color difference doesn’t affect the health of the deer. Moreover, they are legal to hunt, according to Jeremy Roe, a South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks conservation officer regional supervisor based in Sioux Falls.
Roe agreed with Bailey and his friends that piebald deer remain a rare sight.
“It is obviously very rare. We don’t see very many,” Roe said. “We’ll see some white spots and some unique stuff, but not the big white patches that you see on TV or in magazines.” In fact, Roe struggled to come up with another recent sighting. However, he did say some sightings may go unreported.