By JON CHOWN
Monterey Bay News & Views
MONTEREY — Neighbors near Monterey High School are having some encounters with very rare wildlife — two albino fawns who occasionally show up with their mother, a normal-looking black-tailed deer.
The sight is so unusual that some residents may not have even realized what they were seeing. For instance, Monterey Police Sgt. Wendy Birks was recently called to a home situated between the school and Veterans Memorial Park; with Easter less than a month past, a resident had wanted animal control to seize the large rabbit hiding under her bushes.
“She thought somebody’s Easter pet had gotten out and was under her bushes,” said Birks, who sent an officer to go see, and then, sensing it might be an unusual situation, decided to go herself as well.
“We actually walked right by it. I thought it was a lawn statue or something,” Birks said. “It was perfectly still, with it’s head down. It didn’t look real. … I’ve never seen one before. It’s amazing.”
Birks partner thought it was a goat at first; wondering if the animal might be injured, she said she called the SPCA and while discussing what to do, a doe arrived.
“The mom showed up, very interested and wary of us,” Birks said. “At that point we just backed away and left it alone with her.”
For resident Steven Wilson, who lives close to Veterans Park, his first encounter was on April 27. Wilson said a lot of wildlife roams the gully behind his home — raccoons, foxes, deer — so he planted a field camera to view some it. One morning he heard some commotion behind the house and went outside to find a doe banging her head against his fence, seemingly aggravated by his barking dog.
When Wilson later went to check his field camera for photos of the deer, he spotted an albino fawn curled up in the gully.
“It looked to me like it was wet, almost as if just born,” Wilson said.
Wilson ran out to the gully to take a photo and then took a second photo from his house when he saw the fawn walking away.
According to the Department of Fish and Game, an albino fawn has a 1 in 30,000 chance of being born. After that, the lifespan is generally short because predators can so easily spot them. Albino deer are part of many Native American legends, generally believed to be magical. In many states, such as Wisconsin and Illinois, it is illegal to hunt albino deer, but it is legal in California.
Albinism is a recessive trait, so both deer must carry the gene before it can in occur in offspring. When carriers of albinism breed, there is a one-in-four chance they will produce an albino fawn.
Since that first siting, Wilson, who works at Hopkins Marine Station studying tuna and sharks, has seen a pair of albino fawns playing in the gully. He said his neighbor told him both fawns had been sleeping in his backyard.