Either this beautiful ghost-white deer has made her return to the parks of Ohio, or Boardman has a rare family of these exceptional creatures.
Nature is unpredictable. And so much of what we “understand” about nature is assumption. Take the story of Ohio’s Don Foltz, for example.
“My father passed away 33 years ago on April 15,” Foltz begins. “I was driving in Mill Creek Park around 6:30am thinking about him.”
And as Don traversed the Boardman area park thinking of his late father, something strange – something striking – appeared. “I spotted something white in the distance and drove up to find the albino doe,” he reveals.
There before him in the forest was an all-white deer. She wasn’t startled by him, either. Rather, she took to wandering the woods exhibiting a sort of curiosity about Don. See the incredible video here.
His footage, filmed that early morning of April 16 is remarkable. Nature provided a deeply spiritual experience for Don; something that, to him, will never be coincidence. But that’s not all. Once Foltz told his story to Mill Creek Park officials, he was startled. The staff had absolutely no knowledge of the white deer’s presence in their park. Their last-known white deer died in May of 2021. It was something of a story at the time.
Foltz had himself a real ghost. Right there on film.
“The one I was filming was something no one had seen before,” he reveals. “I like to think it was my father’s spirit saying ‘hi and happy easter’, as Easter was the very next day.”
The Science Behind White, or Ghost, Deer
This revelation makes Don’s encounter even more fascinating. 2022’s white deer is obviously alive and well and not, well, spectral. Instead, it shows evidence of a genetic mutation that is being passed down through generations in the local herds. And that truly is rare.
When a prey animal (such as white-tailed deer) is all white, they tend not to live long. Deer have excellent camouflage, something that being stark, shining white completely does away with. An all-white prey animal has exceptionally low chances of making it to adulthood. They’re far more likely to be spotted – and eaten – than their camouflaged kin.
This means there’s little-to-no chance of reproducing, either. So the genetic mutations responsible for making an all-white deer tend to disappear until they happen by chance again somewhere else down the line. But this doesn’t seem to be the case in Ohio’s Mill Creek Park.
And while we’re quick to label an all-white animal as albino, this doesn’t seem to be the case for Don’s deer, either. Instead, she looks to be leucistic. Each mutation in a similar, all-white appearance, but there’s one physical trait that makes it an easy distinction when you have clear footage as Don does.
An albino animal will be mostly white or pale over their entire bodies, which includes the skin under their fur, feathers, etc. But it’s their red, pink, or pale eyes that give them away. If you’ve seen an all-white animal with red eyes, then they’re albino.
If they’re unusually white but have typical (or darker) eyes for their species, however, chances are they’re leucistic. And that’s exactly the case for Mill Creek Park’s remarkable white deer.