Michigan White Deer Death

It’s like going to Disney World and shooting Mickey Mouse…

So remarked local nature photographer Carl Sams after a pure white buck was shot in Kensington Metropark 40 miles northwest of Detroit, Michigan last February.  “It was the golden goose of the park.”

Area photographer, Lou Waldock, lamented, “They (park leaders) were given a beautiful gift and they squandered it.”  “People are utterly devastated.”

Once again a treasured white deer is shot, but this time not by hunters. And this time, the ethical aspects have some added dimensions. 

Although protection of white deer in Michigan was removed in 2008, admirers like Sams and Waldock thought the white buck would be safe in Kensington Metropark where hunting is prohibited.  But no one would have guessed it would be the park itself that would cause the buck’s death.

The white buck was killed by a police sharpshooter as part of a population control effort at the park.  The February shooting, however, did not become public knowledge until June when a park representative finally admitted that the deer had been killed.  BUT, he said, it was not intentional, and (using the standard excuse) it was entirely legal.

Park natural resources director, Paul Muelle, added more to the unsetttling picture:  It was a dark night after a heavy snowfall (“dismal at best“), and a small herd was bedded down with their backs covered with snow.  Despite being told not to shoot bucks or the white deer, the shooter (“looking through sticks and other brush”) fired.

Even by hunter standards, the shooter “broke every conceivable rule,” said Waldock.  The most important rule of all is to be sure of your target.

It used to be a common joke among farmers, before hunter education programs, that you’d better keep your livestock indoors during deer season because hunters really did shoot cows and horses–and sometimes even people–from ill-advised shots.

The fact that the animal was killed by a policeman and not an experienced hunter also raises questions. Given all the publicity lately about police shootings, this incident only reinforces their unfortunate image as people who “shoot first and ask questions later.”

So, where is the white buck now? According to Muelle, the meat was donated to an area soup kitchen and the hide was thrown away. Since it took four months though for the public to learn about the killing, was throwing away the hide simply protocol…or getting rid of the evidence?

The public is calling for an investigation of the killing, accountability for the shooter, and a review of management policies at the park. The park in turn invited concerned citizens to a meeting of the Metropark Board of Commissioners on July 9 to discuss the killing.

Gregory Miller, who had the thrill and good fortune of seeing and photographing the white buck, sent a letter to the park’s western district superintendent expressing how the community had lost “something unique, beautiful, rare and irreplaceable.”

What a wonderful ambassador you had in this animal of such exquisite and exotic beauty, and I am heartbroken to learn that it will never be seen again, and an experience such as I had will never be repeated by anyone else.

Miller, pulling no punches, continued: “…it is the upper levels of park management and the police that I hold in every way responsible and accountable for the utter recklessness that caused the death of this animal.”