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White, Leucistic and Albino Deer.

Updated on February 16, 2019

In Arthurian legend a white stag often appeared at the beginning of a quest. It represented an elusive and often mystical quarry. Sometimes the white hart represents romantic love, and sometime conversion to Christianity.

In reality white deer are typical a result of leucism, a pigmentation pattern controlled by a recessive gene. White deer may arise more often in captive populations due to inbreeding and the absence of predators.

However, some areas now have fairly stable populations of white wild deer rather than just the occasional one or two. (For example, areas of Wisconsin, the New Forest--see examples below).


Some people consider white deer prized trophies and they are very vulnerable to hunting or poaching due to their trophy value and high visibility. Others value having white deer alive in the environment and try to keep their locations a secret. In the tradition of white bears being called "spirit bears" white deer are sometimes called "spirit deer".

There is a considerable debate, among hunters and in the general public, as to whether white deer should be protected a rare and beautiful creatures or should be shot as genetically inferior animals. White deer might be seen as inferior because they are more vulnerable to predation, and may also draw predators to their normally colored kin.

In areas where they are rare, individual white deer can become local favorites. So hunters who take them do so at the risk of becoming quite unpopular (e.g. Missouri 2014).

It is illegal to hunt white deer in some states, including Iowa. A similar prohibition in Oklahoma was recently repealed.


Petworth Park
Petworth Park | Source


  • Pearl is a white roebuck spotted on a Scottish estate (2008). [Telegraph] This deer was found on a private estate and thus available for hunting. Giving that white roe deer are rare in the Untied Kingdom the decision to sell hunting rights foe a profit was widely criticized. I was unable to discover what ultimately happened to this animal. (See also: Rare white deer /How much to kill this deer?)

  • Pictured in 2008 at an undisclosed location a white reed deer stag (Cervus elaphus) was discovered in Scotland. White stags are far less common in red deer than in fallow deer. This stags location was kept secret as even when the deer is on protected range where hunting is not permitted, they are often taken by poachers if their location is publicized. (See also: 'Ghost-like' white stag spotted in Scotland).

The New Forest

  • A white fallow deer was observed in the New Forest, United Kingdom, in 2008. The coloring suggests he is a result of leucism. (See also: Fallow deer 2009).

United States



  • A population of white deer has a long history of being an attraction at Rock City, GA.

Rocky City white deer
Rocky City white deer | Source


Argonne National Laboratory
Argonne National Laboratory | Source


  • It was illegal to shoot white deer in Oklahoma from 1998 until 2012.


  • White white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) have been observed in Michigan (Ryel, 1963)


  • Smaller numbers of white deer are found in Montana. In the Golden Valley county area the shooting of white deer is prohibited.

North Carolina


  • A ten point stag was shot (2010) at a hunting lodge that deliberately brought in deer carrying leucistic genetics.


  • In Tennessee white deer are protected, but white turkeys are fair game.


  • A herd including many white deer living in the Boulder Junction area [video], who are the subject of the book "White Deer". Another smaller herd is located near Leland.
  • Debate about whether or not to protect the white deer in the state is ongoing. The shooting of white deer in Wisconsin is currently not legal. An exception is made for zone where chronic wasting disease is endemic. but even in these areas shooting a white deer can cause public outrage.


  • Unlike most of the deer shown on this hub, the fawn above appears to be a true albino with pink eyes. It was reported found in the wild in Texas in 2005--but the origin of the report is not clear after it is has passed around the internet. The fawn was apparently nick-named "Powder". It is not even certain that this fawn was found in Texas as other versions of the email report it was found in Stanley, North Dakota or West Liberty, Kentucky, Snopes listed the legitimacy of this story as "undetermined".

United States Shooting Regulations (in progress)

Except in chronic wasting disease zones
* Please let me know any additions, corrections and updates via the comments section below

Czech Republic

  • In the Žleby, this mounted specimen of a white stag is displayed. Age and provenance unknown. Žleby is an amazing Gothic castle was built in 1289 and rebuilt in the 15th and again in the 16th century. Around the castle there is a 130 hectare fenced deer park. There is a herd of deer there (living ones) many of whom are white.

Zleby deer park
Zleby deer park | Source


  • White reindeer have also been observed. Like the example below photographed in Jamtland in 2005.

Photo credit: oskarlin / / CC BY-SA


  • Fletcher, N. (2001). Hart's Desire. Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, 1(3), 76-81.
  • Ryel, L. A. (1963). The occurrence of certain anomalies in Michigan white-tailed deer. Journal of Mammalogy, 44(1), 79-98.


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    • profile image


      3 months ago

      Question? What's 'Martland' in your graph of states where shooting a white deer is legal? I presume you mean 'Maryland'?

    • LetitiaFT profile image


      8 years ago from Paris via California

      Growing up in San Diego in the 1970s there was a white doe that graced Mission Valley, the city's central nerve system. Anyone lucky enough to see her, as I was as a child on two occasions, felt blessed somehow. Her hide reflected the eternal sunshine of Southern California, a glowing apparition, a vision. Unfortunately the local fish and wildlife dept. decided she was a threat to the growing number of golf courses, hotels and shopping centers. They shot her. Thousands gathered to mourn at a special ceremony on the hillside where she roamed. My mother took me out of school that day and we attended. It was the end of old San Diego, and the end of my childhood.


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