“A growing moral dilemma is at what point does one person’s right to hunt and shoot an animal interfere with another person’s right to watch, photograph, and enjoy the living animal.” MaLenna Smith, Leland
Wisconsin has a rare and startlingly beautiful treasure gracing just a few areas of the state, including Leland and Boulder Junction. Locals adore them, and tourists flock to lawn chairs waiting to see them. Wisconsin Public Television’s series In Wisconsin filmed a special on them with Patty Lowe, http://video.wpt.org/video/1510278527/, explaining: “Some call them “the ghosts of the forest”. The animal in question is Wisconsin’s albino or ‘white’ deer and they’ve become an internet and international sensation…So far more than 14 million people have viewed our white deer video online.”
Fourteen million potential tourists to visit Wisconsin!
The DNR is thrilled – right?
Of course not! Greg Kazmierski, Scott Walker’s political appointee to the Natural Resources Board, is an NRA/ hunter activist who owns Buck Rub Outfitters. He personally drafted Question #35 which will be posed to all citizens attending the April 14th DNR/Conservation statewide public election and vote:
“Would you favor legalizing the harvest of white and albino deer statewide?”
There is a small herd of 15-20 white deer near Leland in Sauk County. Mike Crowley, photographer, has a Boulder Junction website http://www.lifeinthenorthwoods.com/ picturing white deer mixed with their brown or white fawns in Vilas County. He writes, “Unfortunately their numbers have dwindled and we are now down to 2 or our land with a scattered population of them all around the surrounding Boulder Junction area. We love all the deer but when an Albino comes into sight you do not even notice the brown deer. They are truly one of God’s most beautiful and rare animals.”
John Bates and Jeff Richter collaborated on the book “White Deer, Ghosts of the Forest”. Richter told Patty Lowe that clerks had overheard people looking at their book saying, “This is really neat – if only they were real!” Bates, a northern naturalist, says it takes his breath away to see them. He estimates there may be 1 in 20,000 deer born albino with their pink features. While researching the book, they found that deer albinism does not require pink eyes and often their eyes are a goat-like blue or yellow. Piebald ( brown and white ) deer carry the genetics of albinism. If there are 1.5 million deer in Wisconsin, there may be 60-75 white deer.
They are that rare.
Albino deer had been protected by law, statewide, since 1940. Even with protection, the population remains very small. Then they lost protection in CWD zones, including Leland.
When two white bucks and a doe were killed near Leland in 2012, Amy Sprecher started a movement to gain protection for all predominantly white deer statewide, working out of the local bar she runs with her dad. Amy said, ”I just cannot understand how people can be so selfish, not to think about their beauty for all to share.”
Sprecher’s neighbor MaLenna Smith immersed herself in research, developing a really impressive website http://protectthewhitedeer.com/, including what to do to help http://protectthewhitedeer.com/what-you-can-do . “We are hunters and non-hunters alike who would rather watch these rare white deer going about their daily living than see them hanging lifeless on a wall.”
Marc Lovicott covered the killing of Sparky, a beloved white buck, for Channel 3000 in Madison. It was the 5th most watched story of all 2012.
MaLenna and Amy told me what extraordinary efforts they and other citizens made to testify at the deer Czar meetings where most citizens (me included) did not realize that the white deer were at risk. Their web site announced that January 22, 2014, the Natural Resources Board passed “an emergency rules package which included a rule to: ‘Prohibit the harvest of white deer in the CWD management zone.’”
The citizens of Leland and Boulder Junction say they feel totally betrayed that the Natural Resources Board voted to protect the white deer, then Kazmierski threw all their efforts back in their faces with an immediate proposal to kill them statewide. Kazmierski did not have to go through any of the rigamarole citizens endured. Their citizen proposal was weakened from “Protect all predominantly white deer statewide” to question #40 on the Conservation Congress questionnaire (http://dnr.wi.gov/About/WCC/springhearing.html) : “ Do you support extending protection of white deer to the CWD zone?” ( given they are currently protected in all other zones).
One brown spot dooms a deer. (A burr? A smudge?)
Kazmierski also was entitled to add unsubstantiated information to his question #35, implying white deer are inferior, saying, in part: “These animals often have other recessive traits and physical maladies such as poor eyesight in albinos, because of their pink eyes.” (Few actually have pink eyes, as explained.) His bias: “From a strictly biological perspective, there is not reason to protect white deer.”
The DNR has done zero studies on the physiology, genetics or population numbers of white deer. They may have a recessive gene that is immune to CWD or any number of unanticipated threats. They may have a genetic superiority that can strengthen the deer herd, weakened by hunters destroying wolves and natural predators.
They are a beloved part of the mysterious diversity of life and should not be thrown under the DNR bloated hearse.
Please read federal Senate Bill 1996 (http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/1996?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22S1996%22%5D%7D) which has passed the house and is poised for a vote in the senate. It takes over protected National Parks, BLM lands, and National forests for hunting, trapping,and killing just like they have taken over state parks and all private lands here. It bans the EPA from regulating 7,000 tons of lead in shot and fishing tackle that is poisoning millions of wildlife. It is urgent that you contact your senators against this and the related grab bag bills that go with it.