Outdoors

Albino mule deer fawn outstanding in the field

Albino mule deer fawn photographed near Billings, Mont. (Nels Houghton)
Albino mule deer fawn photographed near Billings, Mont. (Nels Houghton)

WILDLIFE WATCHING — It wasn’t a ghost Nels Houghton first saw while jogging in the early morning near his Billings, Mont.

Last weekend he returned and stalked to within 75 yards of the rare deer as it walked warily across a hillside, reports Brett French, outdoors writer for the Billings Gazette.

“I’ve hunted all my life and have never seen anything else like that,” he said. “I was pretty excited about it.”

French reports that albino deer are rare, but just how rare is open to debate.

  • One 1989 text, “The Deer of North America,” estimated the rate of albinism in mule deer at 1 in every 500,000 deer.
  • An Outdoor Life article on albino whitetail deer put the number at 1 in 20,000.
  • Former Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist Jay Newell said he thinks the 1 in 500,000 odds are high. He told French he'd seen three albino mule deer — spread out along the Musselshell River and in the Bull Mountains — during his work in the area. Yet Newell has never seen an albino whitetail deer.



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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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