Long Lived the King

March 5, 2024

Left:  “The King” pauses a second to look at photographer Megan Danielson.

Right:  Beau, Devin, and Kara Danielson pose with The King shortly after he
was found dead near their home.  He was 15 years old.  Photo by Bill Thornley

“The King” was a huge albino buck that passed away just after the New Year in Burnett County in far northwest Wisconsin. In the Spooner area where he hung out, The King needed no introduction; he was well known to everyone. He was a legend.

Brian Danielson, who found the buck’s remains near his rural home, called Spooner reporter Bill Thornley that morning with the news: “It’s the end of an era,” he said. “The King is dead.“

The King was a true albino, as indicated by his pink eyes, pink nose, and white hooves. Although his antlers and weight had shrunk in later years, in his prime he sported a 12-point rack and weighed an estimated 240 pounds.

“The King” in velvet. Photo by Megan Danielson.

The most amazing thing about The King, though, was how long he lived. The King was first seen as a fawn in 2009 and survived an incredible 15 years!

The first photo at the top of this article was taken near the Danielson’s home and shows how The King appeared to most residents when he was alive. The second photo shows the Danielson’s three children with the buck’s remains—not as a trophy, but as a tribute.

The King often hung out on the Danielson’s property and was always a welcome and much-observed guest. What is amazing is that all three of the Danielson kids were born within the buck’s lifetime. You could say there was never a time when he was not a part of their lives.

The King died peacefully of “old age.” His life was truly a happily-ever-after story, but it probably wouldn’t have been possible in many other states. Wisconsin has a long history of white deer legal protection. To have survived so many years is still a marvel.

It is also a tribute to the Spooner community, which was very protective of The King and enjoyed his company. When people saw The King, they would often share his location and get cameras on the ready. Just his presence near a road could bring traffic to a stop.

Taking a stroll in the late evening light. Photo by Megan Danielson.

When the local newspaper, The Spooner Advocate, announced The King’s death on their Facebook page, 300 people within a few hours shared comments, photos, and videos. He was a celebrity.

The King is dead, but he will not be forgotten. The Danielson’s are going to have the buck mounted and placed in a Spooner restaurant or business so locals and tourists can continue to see him.

Megan Danielson feels the buck was a real-life lesson in conservation. The King helped teach their kids respect and appreciation for the natural world.

The Danielson kids will have wonderful memories to look back on from their childhood. And they will have a great story to tell their own kids some day. It might go something like this:

“I remember when this incredible white buck would show up near our house. They called him ‘The King.’ He was amazing and everybody loved him. He lived for 15 years and passed away right there on that hill by grandpa and grandma’s driveway…”

And then the grandkids will say, “But you’re just making that story up, aren’t you? White deer don’t really exist. Then the parents will whip out their photos and copies of old news articles and show that, indeed, The King really did exist.

And that’s what legends are made of.

For a video interview of the Danielsons with John Lauritsen, click here.
For a more detailed story of The King by Bill Thornley, click here.