A Blizzard in May

An albino fawn and his twin investigate a visitor to their pen at an Iron
Mountain park.  Photo courtesy of Gene DuCharme.

Visitors to the City Park in Iron Mountain, Michigan got a big surprise on May 15, 2008–a doe gave birth to two new fawns, and one of them was completely white!  Magical and mesmerizing are the usual adjectives for a white deer, but for this little guy, you have to add adorable.  The cuteness factor was a ten.

The fawn and its twin were not actually twins in the true sense. The albino was a buck; the brown twin a doe. They were fraternal twins–genetic siblings that were fertilized at the same time, making them more like a normal brother and sister.  Except white isn’t exactly normal.  Only 1 in 20,000 or fewer deer are ever born white.

Several days after the birth of the white fawn, the Iron Mountain Department of Public Works reported that “the albino deer born at City Park last week is doing fine,” but added, “Visitors to the park may have trouble spotting the fawn, since its mother tends to hide it behind logs or in the tall grass.”

The Works Department reassured visitors:  “The deer will become more visible once it is older and able to walk around on its own.”  After about three weeks of hiding, fawns can typically run fast enough to keep up with their mothers and start following them around.  Once the white fawn did this, it was time to bring the kids and the camera–the star of the show was meeting his fans. 

Blizzard and his twin enjoying a rest and some warm spring sun. 
Photo by Gene DuCharme.

There was one thing missing though.  In March of 2009, when the fawn was not yet a year old, area residents asked the city if the deer could be named.  So, a naming contest was held by the Iron Mountain City Council in cooperation with the local paper, The Daily News.

85 different names were submitted for the contest and then listed on the Daily News website for a public vote.  3,753 people responded to the poll, ultimately choosing Blizzard, Snowflake, and Lumi as their favorite names.

City Council members, at their April 21 meeting, made the final choice from the top three names.  The unanimous winner was “Blizzard,” and the person who submitted the name received a special framed photo of the fawn by local photographer Gene DuCharme.

DuCharme told the Council that he would be putting pictures of the newly named Blizzard on T-shirts, sweatshirts and coffee mugs to sell around the area. “A portion of the proceeds will go towards the City Park to either feed the deer or however the city wants to use it.  I think we can promote the deer as a tourist attraction…”

Blizzard, taking it easy again at the Iron Mountain City Park, this time as
as a handsome adult buck.  Screenshot from a video by Jason Asselin.

Well, Blizzard kind of promoted himself.  Deer are beautiful animals, but a “not-your-everyday” white one is stunning.  The Daily News commented:  “Residents and visitors to the park can be seen watching Blizzard and taking pictures on any given day.  The new addition to the park has become a popular attraction.”

The buck never attained a huge rack or achieved herd dominance, but it was a beautiful and beloved animal for 9 years–until one morning in May of 2017 when he was found dead in his pen, a vet believed from cancer. There were still 18 other deer in the enclosure at the time, but none quite as unique.

No white deer have been born in the park since, but Blizzard’s memory–preserved in both people’s minds and probably thousands of digital pictures–lives on.  He came into the world like a May snowstorm–unexpected and white–but left people warm and uplifted.  Iron Mountain, for 9 years, was lucky to have him.

For some excellent footage of Blizzard, see these videos from Jason Asselin.  The first video gives a tour of the Iron Mountain City Park deer pen.  The second video shows two unique specimens:  Blizzard, and Jason Asselin wearing a skunk hat.

Note:  Jim Anderson, news editor for the Iron Mountain Daily News, and Gene DuCharme, an Iron Mountain photographer, provided most of the information for this article.  Much thanks to both of them.