At our deer fencing company, we’ve seen many different kinds of deer, from white tail to mule to elk, but we’ve never seen an albino deer – and we bet you haven’t either.
Albino deer are deer that don’t have the gene that colors their skin and hair, so they appear white. Also, because the irises of their eyes don’t have any color, you can see the blood vessels behind their eye and their eyes appear pink. Not all white deer are albino – there are some white deer with brown noses or colored eyes. In order to be considered truly albino, the deer needs to have no pigment whatsoever.
The Recessive Albino Gene
When it comes to genes, there are some that are dominant (B) and some that are recessive (b). Dominant genes trump recessive genes, which is why you see so many people with brown eyes – the brown eye gene is dominant (B) while the blue eye gene is recessive (b). Each person or animal has two copies of a certain gene, which means they can have one dominant and one recessive (Bb), two dominant (BB), or two recessive (bb). Their offspring depends on the other genes that they mate with.
For example: In two parents, if both have one dominant gene and one recessive gene (Bb), there’s still only a one in four chance the offspring will have two recessive genes (bb). The other three will all have dominant genes, whether it’s BB or Bb. This means that even if a deer has an albino parent (bb) but has a parent with two dominant genes (BB), the deer will be dominant and appear brown. If both a deer’s parents are brown, but have the recessive albino gene (Bb), there’s only a 25% chance the deer will be white. The only sure way to produce an albino deer is if both parents have the recessive gene.
This shows you that being an albino deer is pretty rare.
These deer may also be rare because of a combination of being easy prey (because of their color) and poor eyesight. There are several reports about the chances of a deer being albino. One says 1 in every 20,000, another says 1 in every 30,000, and yet another says 1 in every 100,000 deer is truly an albino deer. Because they are so rare, many states have made it illegal to hunt them.