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ITHACA, NY – White deer at the Seneca Army Depot face an uncertain future as local officials attempt to sell the now enclosed lot.

Paul Curtis, Extension Wildlife Specialist in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University, explains what the sale might mean for the unusual-colored deer population.


A white deer. Image courtesy of Wendy from Flickr.

Curtis says:  

“The white deer at the Seneca Army Depot have a genetic abnormality for coat color and are not albinos. The white deer are the same species as the brown deer on post, and they readily interbreed. A white doe can give birth to brown or white fawns and vice versa.

“They persist at the Depot because it is surrounded by a fence, and for many years the base commander prevented hunting of white deer. That allowed the numbers of white deer to build to a level where a limited, controlled harvest can be sustained. Only a small number of white deer are taken by hunters each year.

“Because they are not a separate species, the Department of Environmental Conservation provides them with no special management status, and hunters can shoot any legal deer – white or brown.

“Without the fence and strictly controlled hunting by the base commander, the white deer would likely be eliminated from the herd because of hunters’ preference for these unusual-colored deer.”

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Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.