Rare and Beautiful Albino Deer Appearing in Ohio Are Hiding a Dark Secret

The rare albino deer that have recently appeared in an Ohio park may look beautiful, but they could be hiding a dark secret.

The Board of Park Commissioners at the Mill Creek MetroPark has recorded three albino white-tailed deer living in the park near Youngstown. Albinism is a rare genetic mutation that affects the amount of melanin—which controls skin pigmentation—in the body. Albino animals are very pale, have white fur and usually pink eyes.

The appearance of albino animals can be striking and beautiful. But the presence of these three albino animals in Mill Creek MetroPark may be an indication of poor population health within the herd.

The albino individuals are an indication that the population may be inbreeding. Although there are still only three known albino deer living in the population, it is incredibly rare for there to be several in one population.

Albino white tailed deer
Stock photo of an albino white-tailed deer. There have been three spotted in an Ohio park. EEI_Tony/Getty

Nick Derico, natural resources manager at Mill Creek MetroParks, told Newsweek: "Albinism in of itself does not necessarily indicate poor health, however, this recessive genetic condition should be very rare with 1 in 20,000 (some estimates as high as in 1:30,000) deer exhibiting this trait in wild populations under normal circumstances. The concern of the MetroParks regarding albinism in our deer herd is the frequency in which this condition is being expressed."

"The MetroParks has had numerous albino deer throughout the years with one or more typically being born each spring. The high frequency in which this normally rare genetic condition is being expressed in our herd is an indicator of poor overall herd health in terms of genetic diversity, likely caused by inbreeding. This observation is just one of many that have raised concern for the overall health of our deer herd."

This population of deer is also rapidly expanding, and is much larger than it should be. There may be a lack of genetic diversity in the population, which may be causing albinism.

An aerial infrared survey completed in January last year showed that white-tailed deer numbers are at an average density of 387 per mile squared in the MetroPark.

"This figure exceeds the recommended ecological carrying capacity of the land by over 19 times," Derico said.

Park officials are continuing to discuss the best way forward to monitor the population.

The park is not far from where the recent Ohio train derailment took place. The freight train was carrying various chemicals when it derailed on February 3. There are now widespread concerns that this could cause a full-blown ecological crisis, seriously affecting the surrounding environment

Experts said the ecological impacts of the spill will depend on the speed and effectiveness of the clean-up operations.

So far, it is not thought to be affecting the wildlife at the park.

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