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What Is a Melanistic Deer?

Posted by Jennifer Smith on

It is estimated that 1 in 30,000 deer are considered to be true albino deer; and that is rare. What is even rarer is a black deer, or a melanistic deer. After a black deer was photographed in Michigan over the weekend, it got us wondering how much we know about black deer. 

What is a melanistic deer?

Black deer lack variations in color such as white or brown. Most of these deer are black all across their bodies except for their tail which remains white. These deer are still considered to be white-tailed deer. The first black deer to be spotted was in 1929 and have since been spotted in Mississippi, Michigan, Virginia, Texas, South Carolina and Pennsylvania. 

According to the QDMA, "Melanism is a random genetic anomaly. Changes in the coat color of mammals are believed to be mutations in the melanicortin 1 receptor gene (MC1R). The mutated gene that causes melanism is believed to be recessive, just like the gene responsible for some albinism and all piebaldism. Melanistic and normal whitetails do coexist in the same area."

Black deer are considered to be gems and do not stand out to predatory animals like natural white-tailed deer, and of course, true white deer. If sighted, snap photos; and enjoy the view of a rare and beautiful animal.