White Buck Illegally Shot

Pure white buck is illegally shot in Sauk County and hunter only gets a $303 slap on the wrist

The 2016 Wisconsin Deer Hunting Regulations booklet (pg. 18) clearly states:  Albino and white deer may not be harvestedTwo of the most important rules for hunting are “Always be sure of your target” and “Always know the rules.”  So whether it was ignorance or arrogance, the results were once again devastating for locals:  Another white deer has been shot in Sauk County.

The pure white 5 1/2 year-old buck was killed November 25 on a hill near Bear Valley, a community just west of Leland. Another hunter saw the buck being loaded into a truck and called the local warden, who found and confiscated the deer. The hunter who shot the deer was a prominent Madison businessman who owned hunting land in the area…and should have known better.

The white buck had been a neighborhood mainstay on the ridge for the past several years, where people often drove in hopes of glimpsing this remarkable deer. Perhaps no one knew the buck and his habits better than Bryan Walsh, a nearby landowner who was interviewed by Channel 3 News. This was a very emotional topic for him and his 11-year old daughter, who had named the buck “Whitey.”

Bryan laments the loss of Whitey and is disgusted that someone would shoot a protected animal, which he compares to “shooting badgers and cranes”–even though white deer are far, far more rare. Only an estimated 1 in 20,000 deer are white or albino.

Most area landowners are fiercely protective of the white deer, and local hunters had often given Whitey a free pass under their deer stands. It was, once again, an out-of-town hunter (someone without the personal relationship that Bryan and other locals had with the white buck) that viewed the deer as simply something to shoot rather than something to enjoy and admire.

“Protect the Rare White Deer” signs are a frequent sight on Bear Valley lawns, so it was obvious there was a valued white deer in the area–something not even an out-of-town hunter could miss. To knowingly take a deer that so many people enjoyed watching and valued, and to do it illegally, was a deplorable act.

The killing of a treasured white buck is not a new story for this Sauk County area, particularly in nearby Leland, where a 2012 white buck kill and the subsequent public outrage made national headlines. This 2012 kill, however, was actually Leland’s third such loss at that time.  And, unfortunately, it wasn’t its last.

Despite a 2015 law reinstating protection for white deer in Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) zones, which includes Leland, and temporary protection in 2014, two other white bucks were again shot in the area: one during the 2015 gun season, and another during the 2016 bow season.

These last two deer each had a very small brown spot on their coat (defined as “piebalds” by the DNR) and were technically legal kills, but that did not make their loss any less upsetting to the neighborhood. When a deer is 99.9% white, it doesn’t matter what the DNR calls it, it’s still white–and these losses were huge, even though they didn’t get the press and attention that the 2012 kill did.

The recent Bear Valley kill makes a total of at least 6 white bucks in 8 years killed in the Leland area–a fact that the Channel 3 news story failed to mention (even though the deer in the background between the two newscasters is actually the 2012 kill!). There have also been three other white deer known to have died in car collisions over the past few years. These losses continue to drain an already small population.

The lunacy of calling a deer that is entirely white except for a tiny spot a piebald (a term usually used for the splashy coloring of pinto horses and Holstein cows) is only surpassed by the lunacy of the fine that the Bear Valley hunter received for illegally killing a perfectly white buck–a mere $303. What kind of consequence and what kind of deterrent is a paltry $303 for a white deer that is 20,000 times more rare than a “garden variety” white-tail?

Reinstating protection of white and albino deer in CWD zones was a step in the right direction, but the DNR owes a lot of people an explanation as to why they can’t do more. There have been efforts to get laws to protect mostly white deer (as in Iowa game law) or to protect deer that are 75% or more white, and to vastly increase fines, but the DNR has been unresponsive to these appeals.

Local residents already know the laws are inadequate and that the definition of “white deer” is far too narrow. How many more white deer deaths will it take to show the DNR the current laws aren’t working? How long before there aren’t any white deer left to protect?

As a Michigan photographer angrily referred to a Kensington Metropark staff after a popular white buck was carelessly shot in a herd cull: “They were given a beautiful gift, and they squandered it.”

Elected officials do listen to the public and more people need to complain about what is happening. Contact the people listed below and encourage increased protection for white deer and serious fines/jail time/gun and vehicle confiscation for shooting them. The greater public already appreciates these deer; now it’s time the DNR starts valuing the white deer for the outstanding Wisconsin resource they are.

Cathy Stepp–Secretary of the WI DNR (608) 266-2121 DNRSecretary@Wisconsin.gov
Todd Schaller–WI DNR Chief Warden (608) 381-8927 todd.schaller@wisconsin.gov
Rep. Ed Brooks–District 50 (Reedsburg, Loganville)
(608) 266-8531 or (877) 947-0050 Rep.Brooks@legis.wisconsin.gov
Rep. Dave Considine–District 81 (Leland, Baraboo, Sauk City/Prairie du Sac)
(608) 266-7746 or (888) 534-0081 Rep.Considine@legis.wisconsin.gov
Rep. Todd Novak–District 51 (Plain, Spring Green)
(608) 266-7502 or (888) 534-0051 Rep.Novak@legis.wisconsin.gov
All other WI representatives: 
Don’t know your representative? Go to this website and type in your address:  legis.wisconsin.gov/

Some Final Notes:

Bear Valley residents have put together a Facebook page and are adding photos and videos as a tribute to the big buck that was killed.  They call their page “The Big Beautiful Buck Known as Whitey.”

Emails have been coming into the “Protect the White Deer” website about the Bear Valley kill. The two letters below epitomize the sentiments of so many people:

From Brett (Edgerton, WI)Nov 30, 2016
I have only been deer hunting for the last decade and have gained a new respect for nature and enjoying the outdoors while respecting the point of hunting and what it means. I would love just to see in person one of these deer just for appreciation of the experience and a good story to talk about. I am appalled by people shooting these magnificent animals as they dont have a respect for what this means. These animals prove how cool and creative nature can be. These amazing animals need to survive for all to appreciate.

From Janice (Avoca, WI)Nov 30, 2016
Protect the white deer, keep them safe from guns and arrows! The penalty for killing one needs to be more than a lousy $303. That amount is hardly a deterrent; make it a much higher fine with jail time of at least 90 days. It makes me so angry when I hear that one of these beautiful creatures has been killed by a hunter, angry that someone would even want to kill such a beautiful and uncommon wild animal, and even more angry that the punishment is so minor.