The White Buck
On November 17, 2012, the first day of Wisconsin’s fall gun deer season, a buck was shot near Leland, Wisconsin. This was no ordinary buck though. Even more striking than its beautiful rack was its color–it was almost pure white! But few people besides the hunter were as excited about the kill.
The white buck was one of a small population of rare white deer that are admired and cherished by local residents–so much so that most people had vowed not to shoot any of the deer, especially the white buck. The hunter who took the deer was from out of town and shared neither the respect nor interest in preserving the white deer–the third white deer to be killed near Leland in five years, all by out of town hunters.
Credit: Carol Hastings
Channel 3 News in Madison, Wisconsin picked up the story of the kill, which garnered massive interest--both for the uniqueness of the deer and the controversy involved in shooting the deer. Technically, it was a legal kill, but by no means was it an ethical kill. Many Leland area residents who had watched and admired the white buck were shocked and outraged.
This website is part of an organized effort to protect the remaining white deer in the Leland area. It brings together numerous sources of information to create an accurate and complete picture of the white deer story. Most of all, it is to educate, encourage, and enable people to join the effort to affect legal change to protect the white deer.
White Deer News and Updates
One Yard, One Picture Says It All
One yard sign--nice. Two yard signs--terrific. A white deer statue--pretty eye-catching. A second white deer statue--double the impact. Nicely arranged setting. Great job homeowners! (Photo taken at a rural Sauk County home.)
Summer Dates for Forest and Flight Photography Shows
Wildlife photographer Mike Richard will have framed prints, photos, and cards for viewing and for sale featuring Leland's white deer and other area wildlife (including eagles, cranes, and swans). See why the white deer are so incredible and purchase a print so you can enjoy seeing them every day.
Also, check out Forest and Flight's new website for a sampling of Mike's outstanding photos and to purchase prints online. http://www.forestandflightphotography.com/
WCC Attendees Vote Against County Hunts for White Deer...Barely
Final votes from Wisconsin's Conservation Congress Spring Hearing were 1,882 against allowing counties to determine their own regulations for hunting white deer and 1,750 in favor. This was a surprise total, considering votes at the 2014 spring hearing were 3,939 against legalizing the hunting of white and albino deer statewide, with only 1, 915 votes in favor of allowing hunting.
The decreased support for white deer may have been a product of the very low turnout at this year's hearings (a mere 4,610 compared to 7,053 in 2014), plus an increased interest by hunters in moving deer management recommendations to County Deer Advisory Councils (CDACs).
The introduction to Question 7 on the ballot also had inaccurate and misleading information on white deer populations. Since information on the ballots can neither be checked nor challenged, it could have lead some people to believe, MISTAKENLY, that white deer numbers could justify local hunts--which they cannot.
Considering voters overwhelmingly supported all 69 of the DNR's proposed rule changes and rejected only 5 of 41 of the WCC's advisory questions--most of which either increased seasons or increased bag limits, it's probably amazing that a proposal to allow counties to hunt white deer was rejected at all.
Find a complete summary of the 2015 WCC Spring Hearing results and county breakdowns here:
Vote for the White Deer!
If you're a white fawn, it's a tough world out there: coyotes and wolves and bears, oh my, with plenty of speeding cars threatening your crossing at every road. Now a group of hunters want individual counties to determine their own laws so that people can legally shoot adult white deer, too.
There are too few white deer and they are too special. They need to be preserved and appreciated for the rare and beautiful animals that they are.
Vote "No" to Deer & Elk Committee Advisory Question No. 7 at the WCC Spring Hearing on April 13 (see info in article below). Send a message to lawmakers that statewide protection is best for both the white deer and Wisconsin.
Another WCC Spring Hearing; Another Attempt to Legalize White Deer Hunting
On Monday, April 13 at 7:00, Wisconsin Conservation Congress Spring Hearing attendees will get to voice their opinions, by an advisory vote to lawmakers, on 112 fish and wildlife issues affecting Wisconsin. This year's ballot includes two very controversial questions: a proposal to hunt sandhill cranes and a proposal to let counties determine their own white deer hunting regulations.
The proposal on white deer on the WCC spring ballot reads:
QUESTION 7. County Deer Advisory Council option for hunting white deer (720114) (p. 43 of hearing booklet)
Several areas of the state are becoming populated with white deer. This population is increasing because white deer are protected. Some landowners report seeing only white deer during the hunting season and dominant white bucks seem to chase other bucks away preventing harvest opportunities.
7. Do you support a rule change that would allow County Deer Advisory Councils to recommend the hunting of white deer in their respective counties? Yes_____ No_____
This white deer question was proposed by a group of Wood County hunters (Wisconsin Rapids area) who have their figurative sights on a couple of white bucks in the area and who would like to have their literal sights on them as well. The WCC Deer and Elk Committee took what was originally a county proposal (passed at the 2014 Wood County WCC Spring Hearing) and made it a statewide question.
White deer are still extremely rare in Wisconsin, even where there are localized populations. The Boulder Junction white deer herd is smaller than in past years, and numbers are no guarantee that the animals will be present in the future, even without hunting pressure.
It's nice that white deer are finally being recognized for the strong, healthy members of the herd that they are, but any notion that they outnumber the brown bucks in an area or are limiting hunting opportunities is highly unlikely.
With the exception of CWD zones in 2008-2013, the tradition of white deer protection in Wisconsin has been continuous and statewide for 75 years! Allowing hunting in any county represents a fractured management view--as logical as allowing the hunting of bald eagles that congregate at dams because "there are so many."
Question #35 on last spring's WCC ballot (Do you favor legalizing the harvest of white and albino deer statewide?) was resoundingly defeated by a vote of 3,939 to 1915 by a predominantly hunting population! A vote from nonhunters would have produced even larger opposition to the idea.
The WCC Spring Hearings will be held at county locations throughout the state. Arrive by 6:30 to register. Attendance at the meetings is very important since only votes at the meeting count in the final compilation for or against a proposal.
1st Annual White Deer Triathlon
Boulder Junction, Wisconsin really knows how to make the best of a good thing. It seems the self-proclaimed "Musky Capital of the World" is getting more attention lately from their long-time population of white deer. Now they've created a sporting event named for the white deer: The White Deer Triathlon, which will take place Saturday, May 16, 2015.
This first-ever event will feature running, biking, and paddling legs (instead of the traditional swimming) on a scenic triangular course in Boulder Junction and across Boulder Lake. Check out this Boulder Junction webpage for more information, registration, and additional event activities. The "winners" will receive awards...and (along with everyone else) get a chance to see a real white deer!
The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, at its February 25 meeting, voted to approve the Deer Trustee Report final rule package which "restores the protected status of white deer in a CWD affected area so that they will again be protected statewide."
Ron Ruenger from Black Hawk and MaLenna Smith from Leland both spoke to the Board in favor of reinstating statewide white deer protection in the rule package.
Rob Bohmann, Conservation Congress Chair, argued that the white deer proposal did not belong in the rule package because it was not in Dr. James Kroll's (Wisconsin's deer czar's) original recommendations.
Au contraire. The Rules Package was intended to implement improved management and new regulations for Wisconsin deer hunting. The rule that removed white deer protection in CWD zones definitely needed to be changed and this was the time and the place to do it.
The Deer Trustee Report rule package will go next to the legislature for review and to Governor Walker for signing before becoming permanent law.
Permanent White Deer Protection Up for DNR Board Vote on February 25!
The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board will meet on Wednesday, February 25 to decide if changes in Wisconsin hunting laws that were enacted last year on a temporary basis (the Emergency Rules Package) will become permanent law. Included in this Deer Trustee Report Rules Package is a proposal to reinstate protection of white deer in CWD (chronic wasting disease) zones. Public comments will be accepted before the Board makes their final decision.
IMPORTANT! There is a Friday, February 20, 11:00 am deadline to register to speak at the February 25 meeting. Call or email Laurie Ross (info below) to sign up to speak. For public participation guidelines, click here.
The Board meeting will start at 8:30 am at the DNR's GEF 2 building in Madison, Wisconsin. Enter the building at the 101 S. Webster Street entrance and go down the right corridor to the reception desk.
Rm. G09, State Natural Resources Bldg. (GEF 2)
101 S. Webster St.
Madison WI 53703
If you are unable to attend the meeting, you can submit written comments to Laurie instead. The white deer issue is agenda item 3.B.1. Encourage a "yes" vote on all white deer protection.
Laurie J. Ross, Board Liaison
Albino Deer Steals Hearts in Northwoods Community
A recent news story from Wausau's WFXS Fox 55 television station highlights, once again, the appeal to people and communities of white deer. In this story, a reporter interviews Jack Marasch, who was captivated by his first sighting of a white fawn near Mercer in Iron County, Wisconsin: "I'm 74 years old and I've never seen a white deer in my life."
Local bar manager, Dawn Craig, one of many people in the area who keep tabs on the white fawn says "She just is a delight to everyone and something new and interesting to see." Marasch adds, "She's just a great little deer and she's touching everybody's hearts up here and we love her... We just love her."
Hearings Coming Up for Permanent White Deer Protection
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will be holding nine public hearings at locations throughout Wisconsin later this month to gather public input on the Deer Trustee Report Rule Package, which includes a proposal to "restore a statewide restriction on the harvest of all white and albino deer."
An Emergency Rule Package, which included white deer protection in CWD zones, was approved by the DNR Board last January, but was only temporary for the 2014 deer hunting season and will expire in June 2015--which means we could lose white deer protection in CWD zones in 2015!
The DNR Board will vote in February on adoption of the permanent Deer Trustee Report Rule Package, which, if approved, will advance to the state legislature for final review.
Although there are many proposals in the Rule Package (see link above), rules can be removed or changed, so it is very important that people speak up about the need to protect all white deer in Wisconsin.
The hearings to get public comments on the proposed permanent rule changes will be from 6-8 pm at the dates and locations listed below. Find additional information at the DNR website.
If you cannot attend any of these hearings, you can still send comments to: Mr. Scott Loomans, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707, or email him at Scott.Loomans@Wisconsin.gov
White Deer in Art and Christmas
White deer make their way into hearts and minds and even sometimes onto canvas. Check out these websites where artists combine myth, magic, and design to create some of the finest in white deer paintings: Pininterest and Tumblr and Google
Even at Christmastime, white deer can be found on lawns as plywood cut-outs or light-draped frames and as elegant statues for mantles and tabletops. In the Leland area, the white deer on the lawn could be the real thing--scouting out the foundation plantings, no doubt, to nibble when the snow gets deep.
Whether real, or in paint or porcelain, the white deer are a thing of incredible beauty.
Rep.-Elect Dave Considine Hears About Sauk County's White Deer
Wisconsin's Assembly District 81, home to some of Sauk County's white deer, has been represented for the last six years by Fred Clark, who will be retiring at the end of this year. Fred will be replaced by newly elected Dave Considine from Baraboo. District 81 takes in Leland and an area east of Leland, including the townships of Honey Creek, Troy, Freedom, and Sumpter, and the cities of Baraboo, Portage, Prairie du Sac, Sauk City, Mazomanie, Black Earth, and Arena.
On December 11 this month, several people from Leland attended a community listening session with Rep. Clark and Rep.-Elect Considine at the Ruth Culver Library in Prairie du Sac. They showed pictures of white deer as trophy kills in states where white deer are not protected, with newspaper articles about the outrage and helplessness felt by local citizens who had enjoyed viewing the deer. "This is going to be what happens here (again!) if we don't get permanent protection for the deer."
Dave expressed his support for protecting the area's white deer and spoke later with a DNR official regarding the issue. He emailed that permanent protection is proposed and will receive final hearings across the state in January. (Check the website later for more details.)
It was a pleasure to meet our new representative and we look forward to working with him. For more information on Rep.-Elect Considine and to share your concerns regarding the white deer (or any other issue), go to: http://daveconsidine.com/
A VERY BIG THANK YOU to Rep. Clark for his involvement in getting white deer protected in the CWD zones of Wisconsin this past year. It was through his legislative effort that a temporary proposal to reinstate protection in those areas was added to the DNR's Emergency Rules Package and which has hopefully paved the way for permanent protection of white deer in all of Wisconsin.
Above: Rep. Fred Clark (left) responds to a citizen concern while Rep.-Elect Dave Considine (right) takes notes during a community listening session at the Ruth Culver Library in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin.
After a nearly 2000-hit viewer spike for this website on October 21 following the news of a Michigan white deer kill (also see "White Buck Deja Vu" below), a similar spike on December 2 didn't bode well. Sure enough. That's the day a large white buck was shot by a bow hunter in the southeastern Missouri city of Cape Girardeau.
This unfortunate deer was living in the wrong place by just a matter of miles, since right across the Mississippi River in Illinois, it is illegal to kill white and albino deer. In Missouri, it is not.
The "Great White Buck" was a legend of sorts in Cape Girardeau, where people had enjoyed catching a glimpse of the ghostly deer since it was a fawn.
Cape Girardeau's local paper, the Southeast Missourian, wrote: "For the past seven years, the albino buck has treated area outdoorsmen to a rare display. Arguably Cape Girardeau's most notorious deer, it was striking, ethereal and possessed of a bizarre elegance that has turned it into something of a local celebrity."
Despite the buck's celebrity status, however, and despite the decision by many local hunters to let the buck pass, one hunter finally succumbed to the lure of the grand and unusual (and a prominent spot in the news and sports magazines) with the excuse: "My buddy was tired of people trespassing on his land to see the deer, so he told me, 'I want you to shoot this deer.'" So, like a good friend, he did...
Forest and Flight Photography taking flight
Leland area resident, Mike Richard, is using his years of hunting skills to catch wildlife on film, with some incredible results. With unbelievable patience, a steady hand, and a camera that can take rapid-fire, stop-action photos, Mike is preserving images of the local white deer and other wildlife, including cranes, swans, and eagles. Mike specializes in "stitched" photos, which are pictures fused from multiple images.
Mike's work can be seen at Sprecher's Tavern in Leland, Wisconsin, or at various arts and crafts fairs. The next chance to see his framed prints and cards will be at the Holiday Craft Bazaar at the River Valley High School gym in Spring Green, Wisconsin, Saturday, December 6, from 9 am to 3 pm. For anyone who loves wildlife, fine photos, and fine art, any of Mike's photos would make excellent Christmas gifts (including for yourself).
The Sauk Prairie Eagle will be featuring an article on Mike and his work in next week's edition.
NO HUNTING ALLOWED!
For the curious, the uninformed, and those who didn't read their deer hunting regulations booklet yet, WHITE DEER ARE PROTECTED IN ALL OF WISCONSIN FOR THE 2014 HUNTING SEASON! The 2014 Wisconsin Deer Hunting Regulations booklet reads: Albino and all-white deer are now protected statewide, including those found within the CWD affected areas. The Wisconsin Deer Hunting Rule Changes For 2014 pamphlet also states: The protection of all white and albino deer has been restored statewide, including CWD affected areas. The regulations booklet goes on to say "It is illegal to possess...albino or all-white deer..."
White and albino deer were protected in all of Wisconsin since 1940, until a rule change in 2008 made them legal to hunt in CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) zones. The Natural Resources Board, at its January 22, 2014 meeting, reversed this exception when it approved an emergency rules package for statewide deer management that reinstated white deer protection in CWD zones.
Results of this decision, unfortunately, are just for the 2014 hunting season, so more work needs to be done to gain permanent protection for white and albino deer in all of Wisconsin.
Petition Signers Give Voice
People from all over Wisconsin, the nation, and even the world have signed our Online Petition to protect the white deer. Many have left comments, from the brief to the lengthy. Here is a sampling.
From near (Shelah from Baraboo, Wisconsin):
I've only seen one in my life. When I saw it, it took my breath away! How can you kill something that leaves you frozen in complete awe of its unique beauty?
To the far (Holly from Loveland, Ohio):
The white deer are beautiful and carry the message of hope and peace. I have spent 40 years visiting and finally living on family property in Vilas and Oneida counties. Seeing the white deer are treasured memories shared with all others who have had the privilege of encountering them. To allow such a beautiful and sacred symbol to be hunted is unnecessary and wasteful. When people hear that there as been a sighting of white deer they flock to the area in hopes of glimpsing these rare animals, as well as spending money and time while on their pilgrimages. Allow them to flourish, tell their story and they will be one more thing (that is) a very special experience in the northern woods.
To the really far (Debbie from Cumbria, UK):
Just cannot understand why anyone would want to kill such a beautiful and rare animal?
And back to Wisconsin again (Gerald from Wind Lake, Wisconsin):
I am an avid hunter, but I would never take a white deer legal or not! Lets all work together to save these special and rare animals.
And we agree... Find more comments at the bottom of the petition page (and sign the petition, too, if you'd like).
New "White Deer" Website Up In Virginia
Virginia resident Regena Stith was motivated to work toward protecting her state's rare white deer after an amazing roadside encounter with a white deer. She later told a reporter: "I really think there is a lack of understanding about these animals"..."I don't think there is anyone (in Virginia) to champion this cause."
Now the deer have their "champion," and Regena is just getting started! Check out the photos, info, and links at protectvirginiawhitedeer.org The photo below (used with permission) is from Regena's website.
Collision Proves Deadly For Platteville White Buck
Roadkilled deer are an all too common sight in Wisconsin, but a recent roadkill near Platteville wasn't common at all. The all white buck, killed October 30 on Hwy 151 just south of Platteville, was one of several white deer that have been hanging out right on the University of Wisconsin--Platteville campus and near the city. The story of the roadkill made the local news, with additional pictures of the buck and the campus visitors on the Platteville police Facebook page.
Closer to Leland, but no less devastating, were two recent white deer losses from car collisions: a doe near Witwen in September and another doe this past week near Plain. A white fawn was killed by a car on Hwy. 23 west of Leland last summer, proving that cars and trucks are the some of the worst "predators" of white deer.
Since the normal gray-brown winter coat of most deer fades so much into the late fall landscape, one would think a pure white coat would be an advantage, but these stories prove that any deer, no matter what its color, is no match for a speeding hunk of steel. It also highlights how important it is to protect the white deer from hunting, which is just one more kind of "unnatural" selection that these deer don't need.
White Buck Deja Vu
In a story very similar to the killing of Leland's white buck, a white deer kill in Michigan last week becomes another lightning rod for both emotion and opinion (see Facebook). Hunters in favor of shooting the deer take "shots" at wildlife viewers, vegetarians, and animal rights activists. Hunters and non-hunters who want the white deer protected are outraged, while news media are delighted to have another controversial event story to send out on the wire service.
The truth is, if this hunter (an 11-year old boy) hadn't shot the white deer, someone else probably would have. White deer were protected in Michigan until 2008, when one hunter, after a fine on a "questionable" white deer kill (he claimed it had some brown on it), embarked on an intense, expensive, and ultimately successful legal fight to overturn the rule.
Without protection, more of these white deer, already so incredibly rare, will be killed. But a lifeless mount, no matter how well done or how many people see it, will only collect dust instead of attention. And the ultimate truth remains, as Outdoor Life contributor Charlie Elk once mused while viewing (and almost shooting) an albino deer: If I kill this deer, I deny another the same experience (of seeing the white deer).
Michigan local Tim Reinert agrees: "This deer was in our backyard in the spring and my wife took a picture. All of the people near us wanted to only shoot pictures, not the deer. We aren't anti hunting but instead wanted this rare deer to be able to spread his genes so his legacy lives on after he died of a natural cause." (Livingston Daily)
In contrast, the father of the hunter speaks of the pride and attention killing this deer brought to his son: “He kind of feels like a rock star right now,” Mick Dingman said. “Everyone is calling, all of the hunting shows and hunting magazines.” It is a sad commentary that the esteem which Native Americans once held for white deer has now become, for some people, esteem for the hunter who shoots one.
White Deer Sculpture Is Part of Reedsburg Art d'Tour
A 50-mile self-guided tour near Reedsburg, Wisconsin from October 4-13 opens the rural landscape to viewing, art, music, and culture in Fermentation Fest's Art D'Tour. One of the art pieces on the tour is a sculpture by Roxbury artist Mary Dickey called "A Call to Nature" and features a throne and two statues of white deer. The tour brochure reads:
Mary Dickey's roadside shrine, A Call to Beauty, asks us to contemplate the idea of a creation and our place in it. Inspired by Wisconsin's rich history of made environments and the profound unity of nature, Mary's piece invites you to leave the everyday, enthrone yourself and let the cherished white deer lead your vision to the beauty of the countryside.
Learn more about Mary and the making of the sculpture at facebook.com/ACall2Beauty
Click here to find out more about Fermentation Fest, the Art D'Tour, and to download a map of the tour route. Mary's art piece is No. 22 on the tour and is located just outside Ironton, Wisconsin (west of Reedsburg). This is Amish country, so expect to see horses and buggies. It is also the location of several white deer, so there's a chance (especially in the evening) of seeing both the concrete variety and the real thing!
State of Virginia Gains White Deer Advocate
It all started when Regena Stith, a Virginia resident, had that "White Deer Experience":
Some time ago, when I was driving to Charlottesville early one morning, a large white doe was standing in the center of the road. The highway was quiet, no cars in sight. I stopped the car and sat mesmerized by the sight before me. Calm and deliberate, the doe returned my gaze, then walked to the side of the road and at the edge of the woods turned and looked at me before disappearing into the dense foliage. That moment electrified me with its astounding beauty!
After that, Regena hit the internet to find out what she could about white deer. Her efforts lead to this website and a phone call to Amy Sprecher to learn more about our efforts in Wisconsin. White deer are not protected in Virginia, so Regena is already at work to raise awareness with bumper stickers, shirts, and a website of her own. She also contacted the local paper. Read her story here, plus a letter to the editor in which she advocates protection for Virginia's white deer.
CNN Features Story of White Deer in Danbury, Connecticut
"Rare deer sighting shocks neighbors" is the lead-in to this August 23, 2014 story of a white deer sighting in Danbury, Connecticut. Actually, "wonder, amazement, and awe" are better descriptions of most people's reactions to their first sighting (see our White Deer Experience page).
While entertaining, the video has some glaring inaccuracies: It is estimated that white fawns occur only once in 20,000 births--NOT in 100! Also, the deer is what is referred to as a "white deer" as opposed to a true albino because it's eyes appear normal instead of pink. The term piebald is used only when there is some brown coat color.
White Deer Photos Available At Local Art Shows
See and buy Mike Richard's outstanding photos of white deer and other wildlife at upcoming art shows. Visitor's to Mike's Forest and Flight Photography booth at the recent Merrimac Community Festival and Middleton's Good Neighbor Festival were amazed and awed to see pictures of the area's white deer. Find Mike and more of his photos at these upcoming shows:
WCC Deer and Elk Committee Passes Proposal To Change White Deer Definition
Members of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress Deer and Elk Advisory Committee, at their August 9 meeting in Plover, Wisconsin, voted to approve a county proposal, co-authored by Amy Sprecher and Ron Ruenger, to change the legal definition of white deer. Prior to the vote, Amy discussed the current definition of white deer and its shortcomings, and Ron spoke about the need to preserve respect and morals in the hunting community.
In essentially a legal loophole in white deer protection, an animal can currently be shot if it has only a tiny amount of brown in its coat (which often is just dirt or staining). This leaves judges and wardens, not to mention hunters, pondering what is legal--and they all miss the bigger picture, which is that so many people feel these deer shouldn't be shot at all!
The proposal, passed by a margin of 8-6, would change the definition of white deer to "having white natural coat color over 75% of their bodies." The proposal will now move on to the WCC Executive Committee for a vote this fall.
At the WCC Spring Hearing earlier this year, the proposal was presented in 13 counties, passed in 11, tied in 1, and lost by just 1 vote in one county. A "yes" vote by the Executive Committee will put the proposal on the 2015 WCC Spring Ballot for public vote in all Wisconsin counties.
Wood County Hunters Want to Legalize Hunting of White Deer
A group of Wood County hunters (Wisconsin Rapids area) are appealing to the DNR to legalize hunting of a small population of white and albino deer in Wood County. A proposal was introduced and passed at the April 14 Wood County Wisconsin Conservation Congress Spring Hearing and moved on to the August 9 WCC Deer and Elk Committee where, despite a motion and second to reject the proposal, it was ultimately passed by a voice vote. It now goes to the next step of the Conservation Congress, which is a vote by the WCC Executive Committee at its fall meeting.
The approving vote by the Deer and Elk committee does not represent the feelings of attendees (mostly hunters) at the WCC Spring Hearings, who voted overwhelmingly against legalizing the statewide hunting of white deer. The current statewide protection, in place for over 70 years, better represents the attitude of most hunters and the greater public who appreciate the incredible beauty and uniqueness of these animals.
Proposal To Legalize White Deer Hunt Fails In WCC Vote
The loud thud that Wisconsin residents may have heard the day after Monday night's Conservation Congress meeting was not tectonic plates shifting or a frost quake or even Wisconsin residents bemoaning a return of snow and unseasonably cold weather. It was the crashing of Proposal #35 on the WCC ballot as 3,939 attendees voted no and only 1915 people voted yes to the question: Do you favor legalizing the harvest of white and albino deer statewide?
A proposal to reinstate protection of white deer in CWD zones did not pass, but had a close vote: 2.665 yes and 2963 no. Results are only advisory to the Natural Resources Board and represent only a small fraction of Wisconsin residents. Complete ballot results for 56 other sports-related issues are posted online and can be viewed at the WCC website.
Wisconsin's White Deer: Separating Science and Myth
Members of the public and even game managers often throw out the argument against white deer protection with "it's not science." After doing some REAL research though, the "it's not science" argument starts sounding more like hollow echoes of previously voiced arguments that also had no basis. Read here to find out what's science and what's myth in Wisconsin's white and albino deer herd. Feel free to forward the article to others and to news sites.
The WCC Spring Hearing is this Monday, April 14. Registration begins at 6:30 pm with election of delegates at 7:00 pm. Click here for your closest meeting location.
If you cannot attend the WCC meeting, you can still send a comment (postmarked no later than April 14) to: Mr. Scott Loomans, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707, or email him at Scott.Loomans@Wisconsin.gov
Why it is so critical for you to attend: We just found out this week that the white deer protection in CWD zones that was approved in January by the Natural Resources Board is only temporary, since it was just an emergency rule. That means, depending on the vote results Monday, we could lose white deer protection in CWD zones in 2015! With Question #35 on the WCC ballot proposing legal hunting of white and albino deer statewide, we could also lose all white deer protection (and much of the white deer population) in just a few years.
A new definition: We will be presenting a new resolution at the WCC meeting to better define white deer. Currently, if there is even a single spot of brown hair on a white deer, they may be shot. Natural stains on white deer are also being interpreted by hunters as "brown" coloring and their cases are getting dismissed in court by judges who say the current white deer definition and law is too vague.
We need to get this new resolution presented in as many counties as possible. If you or someone you know is interested in doing this, please contact Amy Sprecher as soon as possible: (608) 544-2054. You do not need to be a resident of a county to present a proposal. Amy can give you more information on what you need to do. Read the full resolution here.WCC Information Sheet From Amy Sprecher
April 9, 2014
Here is an information sheet that can be printed off or emailed to friends. It has the Wisconsin Conservation Congress proposals for white deer, background info, what you can do, and a list of county locations for the April 14 WCC Spring Hearings. One stop shopping! Click here.
White Deer As a Tourist Draw? Unanimously Affirmative!
This outstanding letter was sent to the DNR in October when the public was asked to provide input on the Deer Trustee Report Proposals, which included a resolution to reinstate protection of white deer in CWD zones. B. Fuller from Madison writes:
I took the time to conduct an informal survey of local residents and business owners (Vilas and Iron County areas). When asked whether they viewed the White and Albino Deer populations as being a significant draw to tourism in their community, the responses were almost unanimously affirmative.
On any given summer night, for example, one can see lines of cars driving slowly down specific roads in the Boulder Junction area with cameras at the ready. The license plates of these vehicles are from many different states. The effect in terms of tourism revenue is clear, even if not empirically analyzed.
Unfortunately, the local population of white deer in most areas there has decreased due to cars, poachers, and some wolf kills, as reported by local residents in Vilas and Iron Counties, as well as from just over the border in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Conservatively, the numbers of white deer in the CWD zone are placed at 1 in 20,000. The possibility of localized herds being completely wiped out is significant if the harvest of these few animals continues.
I would respectfully urge the Wisconsin DNR and members of the DTR Action Teams to consider placing ALL White and Albino Deer under legal protection status.
"Harm Thee Not the King's Deer"
So writes John from Mackay, Australia, who describes the "white harts" of old as sacred "to History and Crown and Church." Read the rest of John's comment, plus what many others have to say from the new "comment" box on the website petition page: http://protectthewhitedeer.com/online_petition.html
Couple Says "Put the Science Aside" and Vote Against Harvesting White and Albino Deer
Despite the title, Randy and Debbie Augustinak, in a letter to the editor of The Lakeland Times (Minoqua), point out that it's a "terrific advantage" being white where snow covers the ground nearly half the year--a small fact that pro-hunting advocates seem to overlook: "The 'normal' colored deer are easily spotted against nature's winter backdrop, while their white-colored relatives travel stealthily through the neighborhood, not easily detected by man or predator."
Randy and Debbie also take issue with the statement in the preface to Question #35 on the Wisconsin Conservation Congress Spring Ballot: "From a strictly biological perspective, there is no reason to protect white deer." The Augustinaks reply:
"So? Taking that 'logic' to the extreme, there is also no biological reason to create music or art, marvel in wonder at a Northwoods sunrise, or allow people with disabilities to live, but we should, and we must. Sometimes we need to put the science aside for a moment and appreciate things for the pure enjoyment that they provide."
Read Randy and Debbie's entire letter at: http://www.lakelandtimes.com/main.asp?SectionID=11&SubSectionID=11&ArticleID=20425
Well-known Wisconsin writer and co-author of White Deer: Ghosts of the Forest, John Bates, in his March 7, 2014 Lakeland Times (Minocqua) column, talks about the proposal on the Wisconsin Conservation Spring Ballot to legalize the hunting of white and albino deer. He presents information and observations on the health, genetics, hardiness, and value of these animals, and ends his column:
"For me, the final proof of their fitness is simply this: They have survived, and thrived, over time. If they were significantly unfit, they would have been culled out a long time ago.
Read the entire column at http://manitowishriver.blogspot.com/2014_03_01_archive.html (scroll down the page to NWA 3/7/14 and continue scrolling until you hit: Proposals to Hunt Albino Deer and Tundra Swans Statewide) Also check out some of John's other columns--full of interesting information and good reading!
Time To Take Action...Again!
April is Wisconsin Conservation Congress time and, as it turns out, time to show your support for the white deer...yet again. Despite the popularity of the white deer, and despite the recent law to reinstate protection of white deer in CWD zones, there are still those who view white deer as trophies and want the legal right to shoot them. This is not the time to be complacent!
Question #35 on the WCC Spring Hearing Ballot asks attendees if they favor legalizing the hunting of white and albino deer statewide! Even though the vast majority of Wisconsin residents support white deer protection, if enough people at the WCC meeting vote "yes" on this question, a 74-year tradition of white deer protection in Wisconsin could be lost.
Although the Conservation Congress (WCC) has no power to make actual laws, it is advisory to the Natural Resources Board and can influence policy decisions. Because the WCC is typically attended by only a small number of people, almost exclusively hunters, fishermen, and trappers, it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that more people attend so that non-hunting issues can be represented.
Question #35, on the WCC Spring Ballot asks: Would you favor legalizing the harvest of white and albino deer statewide? Yes____ No____
Question #40 asks: Do you support extending protection of white deer to the CWD zone? Yes____ No ____
This last proposal is a "dinosaur," in a sense, since protection was already passed in January as part of the Deer Trustee Emergency Rules Package. However, a large number of "yes" votes is still important to show support for keeping the law and for white deer in general.
The meeting this year will be Monday, April 14 at 7:00 pm (plan to arrive by 6:30 to register) at locations throughout Wisconsin (see link below). There are 58 proposals in all on the ballot, and some are very controversial (hunting tundra swans, for instance, and allowing hunters to retrieve dogs on private property without permission). Be there to vote your opinion on all these issues!
If you cannot attend the WCC meeting, comments can be written to Mr. Scott Loomans, Bureau of Wildlife Management, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707 or email him at Scott.Loomans@Wisconsin.gov. Written comments must be postmarked by April 14, 2014. Comments will not be counted as a vote but will be summarized for Natural Resource Board members to read. Even if you will be attending the hearing, please send a comment – the Board needs to know how you feel.
Why White Animals Need To Be Protected
An all too familiar story: Hunters impulsively kill a rare white animal (in this case, one REALLY valued by the local Native people), they post "proud" pictures on Facebook, and then the outrage begins--too late for the animal.
This article from Wisconsin rural newspaper, The Country Today, highlights the need for a better legal description of what a "white" deer really is. White deer are now protected in all of Wisconsin, but not "piebald" or partially white deer.
The term "piebald" usually means having splotches of color, as in pinto horses, but is now a technical disclaimer for otherwise totally white deer. Wisconsin hunting regulations read: "a deer that has some brown hair, even if only a small patch." In this case, we are literally talking hairs--a huge stretch of the original definition.
A proposal to change "white" to "predominantly white" (as is used in Iowa white deer game regulations) was offered at the 2013 Wisconsin Conservation Congress, but later trimmed by the Deer and Elk Committee. The reasoning seemed to be that it wasn't necessary--that hunters seeing a mostly white deer would not even chance a shot. Well, maybe not...
A list of field wardens’ reports from the Bureau of Law Enforcement’s annual report on the November gun deer season included the following entry (from Wisconsin Outdoor News, "Cuffs and Collars" column, http://www.outdoornews.com/March-2014/Wisconsin-Cuffs-Collars-March-7th-2014/):
"Warden Wayne Flak, of Menomonie, got a call about an albino deer that died after falling off a cliff. Flak contacted the party and was told they had been careful not to shoot the white deer, but as they finished a deer drive, it ran off a cliff and died of a broken neck. The buck did not meet the definition of an albino. Flak issued a permit for the party to keep the deer. They named it “Cliff.” The group was going to have a body mount done to be displayed at a local business."
New White Deer Threat
This last minute proposal was added to the spring ballot by DNR Board member Greg Kazmierski, who was present when the Board voted to approve the Emergency Rules Package. As a Board member, he and others were able to add questions to the spring ballot without going through the normal voting process that the rest of us had to go through. His proposal also puts inaccurate information on the ballot that could sway voters who are not informed.
Our original proposal (worded as a question) to protect white and albino deer in CWD zones is still on the Conservation Congress ballot at No. 40--even though the emergency law was passed. This new proposal would not only reverse that decision, it would make it legal to kill white and albino deer STATEWIDE! The wording of question #35 is particularly disturbing because it reinforces an outdated view of white deer that is still held by many hunters and game managers. Without public attention, this new proposal could "slip by" and become law--only a few hunters promoting this position is all it would take. Just one hunter in Michigan was able to overturn their laws protecting white deer, with a similar story in Minnesota. This new proposal should definitely be taken seriously.
Board Passes Proposal to Protect White Deer!
The Natural Resources Board on Wednesday, January 22 unanimously approved an emergency rules package which included a rule to: "Prohibit the harvest of white deer in the CWD management zone." Four people from Leland and Black Hawk attended the meeting, and two spoke to the Board in support of the proposal, in addition to a statement by Rep. Fred Clark.
The white deer proposal was not a "done deal" previous to the vote, since the rule could have been pulled from the package or amended, and a couple of other speakers were not receptive to the idea of protecting the deer. We were later told that our testimony made the difference in changing one Board member's mind and the subsequent approval of the rule. This is a win at the highest level for our white deer efforts.
Important Natural Resources Board Meeting Coming Up January 22!
Speak up for the white deer! The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board will meet on Wednesday, January 22 to consider several changes to Wisconsin hunting laws, including a Deer Trustee Report proposal to reinstate protection of white deer in CWD zones. Public comments will be accepted before the Board decides whether to put proposals on their February agenda for consideration and a vote.
Show the NRB that people want the white deer protected! It is very important to get as many people as possible at this meeting to testify on behalf of protecting the white deer. If people don't show support for legislative change, the proposal could be dropped. We've had very good support from the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, but their votes are only advisory to the Board, which makes the actual changes in Wisconsin law.
Register to speak. There is a January 17, 11:00 am deadline to register to speak at the January 22 meeting. Call or email Laurie Ross (info below) to sign up to speak. If you are unable to attend the meeting, you can submit written comments to Laurie instead. Request that the Board reinstate statewide protection of white deer and explain why you think this is important. For public participation guidelines, click here.
Laurie J. Ross, Board Liaison
Laurie gives this important information to people who want to speak:
The meeting will be Wednesday, January 22 at 8:30 at the DNR's GEF 2 building in Madison. Enter the building at the 101 S. Webster St. entrance and go down the right corridor to the reception desk.
Rm. G09, State Natural Resources Bldg. (GEF 2)
101 S. Webster St.
Madison WI 53703Come early! Public comments will be taken between 9:30 and 9:45, but a large turnout is expected because of the Deer Trustee Report proposals. It would probably be a good ides to get to GEF 2 before 8:30...or, as Laurie offered, you might not have a place to sit.
Edgerton Article Features Leland White Deer
"Therefore, in his other moods, symbolize whatever grand or gracious thing he will by whiteness, no man can deny that in its profoundest idealized significance it calls up a peculiar apparition to the soul.” -Herman Melville, Moby Dick
So begins a November 20, 2013 article in the Edgerton Reporter, Edgerton, Wisconsin by staff reporter Jeff Brown. Jeff's positive and informative article captures the social context, the political history, and the magic of the area's white deer. Read Jeff's article here.
Nine-day Gun Season Ends With No White Deer Casualties
Nothing is for certain, but based on word of mouth and a survey of registration stations in Sauk County, it appears that no white deer were killed this gun season. Special seasons, however, including an antlerless hunt and the Holiday hunt, will continue to put the deer in jeopardy through much of December. Results so far, though, are encouraging that more and more people appreciate seeing and protecting the deer.
No Photo Editing Involved!
Photographer Mike Richard caught these white deer by his driveway. They couldn't have posed better!
"Save the White Deer" and "Protect the White Deer" signs and sweatshirts are still available at Sprecher's Tavern in Leland. We need as many signs as possible displayed on lawns and near roads to show how special the white deer are and to help protect them for all to enjoy.
Mike's new business, called "Forest and Flight Photography," also includes outstanding locally photographed eagles, cranes, and swans. Mike's work can be viewed at Sprecher's Tavern in Leland (ask Amy, since photos are not on display) and at Pamela's Fine Jewelry in downtown Spring Green, Wisconsin. A website for "Forest and Flight Photography" will be coming out shortly.
If you get to Leland, ask Amy to see the computer-stitched sequence picture of a young white deer jumping--outstanding subject, outstanding photo, and outstanding art! Hint: Any of these photos or products would also make excellent Christmas gifts!
Natural Resources Board Changes Meeting Date
A conversation with DNR Board Liaison, Laurie Ross, indicates that the DNR Board has decided to postpone looking a the Deer Trustee Report Proposals (which includes protection of all white deer) until their January 21/22 meeting. Again, you will need to notify Laurie by phone or email by the Friday prior to the meeting to register to speak at the meeting. See the paragraph below for the location and other details of the meeting. We will provide more info as we get it.
White Deer Statue on Display at Plain, Wisconsin Business
Hayward, Wisconsin may have its giant muskie, but Plain has its white buck. Find this not-so-elusive deer at the I-Diehl Tap, 400 Main Street in Plain, Wisconsin. The story has it that a couple of Plain residents brought it back from out West on a trailer. Be sure to stop by for pictures with the statue and to thank the owner for his "huge" support.
Public Input Needed at Wisconsin Natural Resources Board December 11 Meeting
The fact that the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board meets almost every month of the year except November was a very unfortunate irony in our last minute efforts to get protection for white deer in CWD zones. We are still going to the Board's December meeting to request protection for the deer, but a decision will only be made by the Board to put it on their agenda for a January, 2014 consideration and vote. Although we have been successful going through the WCC (Wisconsin Conservation Congress), it is an even slower process, and their recommendations are only advisory to the Board.
It is therefore very important to get as many people as possible at this meeting to testify on behalf of protecting the white deer. There is, however, a December 6, 11:00 am deadline to register to speak at the December meeting. Call or email Laurie Ross (info below) to request to speak. If you are unable to attend the meeting, you can submit written comments to Laurie instead. Request that the Board reinstate statewide protection of white deer and explain why you think this is important. For public participation guidelines, click here.
Laurie J. Ross, Board Liaison
The Board Meeting will be held Wednesday, December 11 at 1:00 at:
Rm. G09, State Natural Resources Bldg. (GEF 2)
101 S. Webster St.
Madison WI 53703
*Enter the building at the 101 S. Webster St. entrance and go down the right corridor to the reception desk.
Last Ditch Effort To Get Legislative Protection For White Deer Prior To 2013 Gun Season
November 6, 2013
We received this letter from Andrew Farrar, legislative aide to Rep. Fred Clark, regarding efforts to suspend hunting of white deer yet this month:
"I am sending you this e-mail to inform you that Representative Clark and Representative Brooks sent a joint letter to the Co-Chairs of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) yesterday requesting a public hearing to consider the Administrative Rule pertaining to protection of white deer (Section NR 10.02 (3) Wis. Administrative Code) in CWD zones. This request is the first step in the administrative rules suspension process. The goal would be to have this consideration heard tomorrow (11/7) at the JCRAR’s public hearing and then subsequently voted on in the executive session. We are currently awaiting a response from the committee’s Co-Chairs, Representative LeMahieu and Senator Vukmir. I have attached the letter to this e-mail and encourage you to share it."
We are very grateful again for all of Rep. Clark's efforts on our behalf and for the added support from Rep. Ed Brooks. Here is a copy of their letter to the JCRAR (Joint Committe for Review of Administrative Rules). Click here.
Another White Deer is Killed!
Although details are not known yet, news was received on November 1, 2013 that a young, six-point white buck was killed south of Mazomanie, Wisconsin. He was apparently shot by a bow hunter and found later some distance away by a Mazomanie area farmer. The carcass had been partially eaten by coyotes. We are trying to get more information on the kill and get the story public. This underscores how crucial it is to get protection for the white deer prior to the 2013 gun season, which starts November 23.
A letter from Amy Sprecher to all concerned about the white deer: WE NEED YOUR HELP!!!
October 28, 2013
Since online comments carry equal weight to public comments when the Deer Trustee Report Committee makes their final decision on white deer legislation, it is vitally important that as many people as possible respond to the DTR's survey. If you did not or cannot attend any of the public hearings on the committee proposals, you can still make online comments or send in a paper survey. Amy Sprecher gives further details on what to do:"I spoke with Eric Lobner, the DNR coordinator of the Deer Trustee process, today to find out if the survey results were going to be the primary driver to the final decisions being made on these questions. The answer was yes. I stated the following concern - that the Board will only look at the results of the Deer Trustee Report survey and base their decision on the survey results. Even though the bulk of our 2000 signatures on our petition are hunters, most people (especially non-hunters) are not aware that the white deer protection is part of the Deer Trustee meetings or the survey and their concern to protect the deer will not be known.
Therefore, I am asking you to get the word out and have everyone you know go to the DNR’s website (dnr.wi.gov), click on the Deer Trustee Report (under the YouTube video), and complete the survey. White deer protection is Section 7, question 19; you’ll want to check the “support” line. Also, at the bottom of the Trustee page you can also make a comment – a valuable step to the process to let them know how you really feel about their protection. If you know people without computers, you can print out a copy of the survey and they can mail it in. SURVEYS MUST BE COMPLETED BY NOVEMBER 8!"
Deer Trustee Report webpage: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/
Survey page: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/
Attend the DNR Action Committee Public Meeting!
Upcoming meetings will be held around the state to get public input and comments on proposed deer hunting rule changes that have been proposed by the Deer Trustee Report Action Committees.
Rep. Fred Clark noted in his recent press release that "restoration of the ban on harvesting white and albino deer has yet to receive final approval." Although gun deer season is rapidly approaching, we are counting on emergency legislation to protect the deer. Public input on the new rules package is extremely important, so please try to attend! The meetings will take place at the following times and locations:
Tuesday, October 22: Richland County Courthouse Board Room 181 W. Seminary St. 6-8pm
Rep. Fred Clark News Release About DNR Rule Package To Protect White Deer
October 2, 2013
Rep. Fred Clark released the following article to local newspapers with information on the final Deer Trustee Report Committee's recommendations to restore protection to white deer in CWD zones. See article.Rep. Clark states in his release: “In response to the many passionate calls, letters, and e-mails that I received, I asked DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp to consider restoring the statewide protection of albino and white deer in CWD management zones. I am pleased to announce that this consideration has been adopted in the DNR rules package.”
“This first step is a victory for the people of the Sauk County community and all other communities who value our unique wildlife populations and the rules that enforce our hunting ethics.”
"It is important to note that the restoration of the ban on harvesting white and albino deer has yet to receive final approval. If you would like to attend one of the local hearings about these rules, please refer to the dates and locations above."
Legislative Update On White Deer Protection
Brad Hasheider, a member of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, sent this email with current information on proposed legislative changes to protect white deer in CWD zones:
Attached is a copy of the DTR (Deer Trustee Report) Action Team Final Report which will be released later today. This document reflects the efforts of the four Action Teams that worked through seven meetings starting in March and wrapped up on July 20th. As a next step in the process, this information, along with the original DTR Report and public feedback that has been received through the process, will be used to help draft a rule proposal package for the public to consider during public hearings held the last two weeks of October. Following the formal hearings, public comments will be evaluated and potentially changes will be occurring to the final rules package. (Deer Trustee Report--refer to pg. 113 for white deer proposal.)Herd Health/CWD Action Team Proposal To Protect White Deer
August 12, 2013
On July 20 in Stevens Point, the Herd Health/Chronic Wasting Disease Action Team filed their final proposals for implementing the Wisconsin deer trustees’ 62 recommendations for managing Wisconsin's whitetails. The team's recommendations included a proposal to "restore in any CWD Management Zones, the state-wide rule protecting white deer from harvest."
Four teams, representing different aspects of deer management, have been working since March to come up with proposals for implementing Dr. Kroll's (the "Deer Czar's") recommendations for whitetail deer management in Wisconsin. The DNR will use these proposals to draft rules for the 2014 deer hunting season. Public hearings on the rules will be in late October and November.
The Action Team proposal to return protection of white deer in CWD zones is a very positive statement of support by the committee and the hunting community. Click here to read the full report.
WCC Deer & Elk Study Committee Meeting Brings Mixed Results
August 10, 2013
The proposal passed with a 100% voice vote of approximately 36 committee members, but with some qualifications. The chairman of the committee did not want to include increased fines or added protection of piebalds, as was written in the original proposal, so the vote was just for reinstating protection of the white deer.
Having to drop parts of the proposal that we considered very important to the issue was disappointing, but not all resolutions passed at the meeting, so this may have been a political trade-off that we had to make. The resolution will go on next to the Executive Council of the WCC for final review and approval.
White Deer Float in Plain Parade
White "Deer' in 4th of July Parade!
New photos are up!
Good news from the HH/CWD Action Team!
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp Responds to Rep. Fred Clark's letter
Motorcycle Fans Sign Petition
New PBS Show Visits Boulder Junction White Deer
Rep. Brooks Listens To Leland Residents About the White Deer
"Ultimate Outdoors" Hears About the White Deer
Letter from Rep. Clark to DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp
Baraboo News Republic Poll On Protecting the White Deer
Don't Forget to Sign the Petition
Official Vote Count In
2013 Wisconsin Conservation Congress citizen resolution results are up! Click here to see results by county or by title.
An impressive show of support!
Wisconsin Conservation Congress Hearing
Many thanks to all the people who attended the Monday night WCC meeting. It was a good show, with about 20 people wearing "Protect the White Deer" shirts and even more supporters in "plain clothes." People new to a WCC meeting really learned a lot about the organization and the process.
Note: In the Channel 3 interview taken at the Wisconsin Conservation Congress meeting, the white deer were inadvertently referred to as a species. They are not a species; just a form of white-tailed deer caused by a very rare recessive gene. See the White Deer Q&A page for a full explanation of this color phenomenon.