A Farmington Hills couple were returning home from a Kroger run when they spotted a rare albino deer Monday night.
Driving on West 12 Mile Road near Orchard Lake Road, Zoe Ridley, 25, and her boyfriend, Jarod Harris, 24, saw the albino deer grazing on the side grass of a parking lot in Farmington Hills.
"We whipped the car back around and thankfully it was still there," said Ridley, an environmental specialist for the City of Detroit Health Department. "It was just peacefully eating the side grass. ... We didn't want to disturb it or make any loud noise. We knew it wasn't just a white animal because we flashed the headlights and the eyes were red, so we knew it was an albino, and the nose was pink."
According to the National Deer Association, Albinism is a rare occurrence in deer; some estimates indicate that the trait is present in only one out of every 30,000 deer.
"It was very peaceful and just a very, very cool experience," Ridley added. "It literally was at 9:11 p.m. on 9/11. I looked back at the pictures on my phone, and it said 9:11 p.m., I'm like 'this has to be a sign.'"
Albinism traits in deer include all white hair, pink or red eyes and pink noses, hooves and ears. Male albino deer also possess pale pink or white antlers.
"Albino deer do not have the gene that is responsible for normal coloration of skin, hair, and tissue," according to the National Deer Association. "This is caused by the complete lack of melanin pigmentation and is due to a recessive trait inherited from both parents. A deer can carry this rare recessive trait without being albino, but when two deer carrying the trait reproduce, there’s a chance their offspring will be albino."
In Michigan, it has been legal to hunt albino, all-white or piebald deer since 2008, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Prior, all-white deer were a protected species in the state and could not be harvested by hunters.
The protection of albino and all-white deer was lifted for several reasons.
The previous rule created a challenge for hunters since it was permissible to hunt piebald deer, which have white fur with brown markings. Differentiating between all-white, albino and piebald deer from a distance is often difficult.
Maintaining the genetic trait that results in all-white or albino deer is also not biologically essential. In fact, this trait can impede their ability to evade predators, as they typically have weaker eyesight and their light fur makes them highly visible due to the lack of natural camouflage.
Additionally, "the all-white (not truly albino) deer were escaped exotic animals with the potential to spread disease into the wild deer herd, something we would not want to promote by protecting these deer," according to the DNR.
Since sharing the sighting to Facebook, Ridley's post has received a lot of attention.
"I couldn't believe my eyes," one Facebook user commented. Others stated that the deer looks "malnourished" and urged DNR to protect the rare animal.
Ridley is asking anyone who encounters the albino deer in the area to refrain from hunting it or causing it any harm.
Contact Nour Rahal: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @nrahal1.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Albino deer spotted in Farmington Hills