WATCH: Scientists Spot ‘Rarest of Rare’ Deer From Helicopter in West Texas Desert

by Chase Thomas

You never know what you are going to see in the great outdoors. Even if you’re high above the ground, in, say, a helicopter, you just might spot something special. That is what a few scientists did as they flew above the fray in a helicopter recently and saw the “rarest of rare” deer in a West Texas desert. Seriously. What made this particular deer so rare is that it was a melanistic mule deer fawn. This meant it had black hair. This type of deer is extremely rare because of how rare melanism is in deer.

According to the experts, the odds of a deer being melanistic is 1 out of a couple million.

In a new Facebook post, they wrote about spotting the deer in Texas in the helicopter, “A melanistic (black hair) mule deer fawn was spotted by TPWD District 1 Biologists while conducting wildlife surveys in the Trans-Pecos. Melanism is a rare, random genetic anomaly believed to be caused by mutations in the melanocortin 1 receptor gene (MC1R) which leads to an overproduction of the pigment melanin. It’s difficult for Biologists to quantify the number of mule deer that have this condition, but it’s estimated to be around 1 in several million – making it even rarer than an albino (all white hair) or piebald (white spotted) mule deer. A one-in-a-million anomaly. Video credit: District 1 Biologists J. Etchart & J. Weaver.”

In the video above you see one deer, but you also see the black deer running in stride right behind it. It is such a sight to see. You see mule deer all the time out in the West Texas desert. What you don’t see all the time is what these two biologists saw with the melanistic deer. How cool is that?

It turns out this sort of condition can actually be quite helpful to the deer. According to TPWD, “additional pigmentation protects [animals] from sunlight exposure and increases their ability to absorb heat in cold weather. The darker coloration also makes it easier for those animals active at night to conceal themselves.” So, this color protects them from harmful sun exposure and it’s easier for them to get warm in the cold. Another face is that hunting becomes a lot easier for deer. They can blend in with the night with much more ease. This condition is the opposite of albinism. With the latter, it’s an underproduction of the color pigment. This is more common than melanism.

Still, what a tremendous find by those West Texas biologists to catch a brief glimpse of such a rare animal moving about across the desert in West Texas. You truly never know what you might see out there and sometimes you just might see the rarest of rare.