Another Leland White Deer Kill

Another Leland White Deer Kill Illustrates Need for a New Legal Definition

After a treasured white buck was shot in the small Wisconsin community of Leland (the third over a five-year period), residents vowed not to let it happen again. But, after three years, much work, and a change in law later, the very same thing happened again.  Why?

White deer were protected in all of Wisconsin until 2008, when protection in CWD (chronic wasting disease) zones was removed. A new law in 2015 reinstated statewide protection, but it had one glitch (a very major glitch, as it turns out). Any white deer with even a small amount of brown is considered a “piebald” (or partially white deer) and remains legal game.

Amy Sprecher, the Leland resident who has been spearheading efforts to protect the area’s white deer, tried to address this loophole by introducing a resolution at both the 2014 and 2015 Wisconsin Conservation Congress (WCC) Spring Hearings to change the definition of “white” deer to “75% or more white.”

This percentage was determined after consulting with several people in law enforcement who agreed that the present legal definition is inadequate. Although Iowa is one of the only states to protect deer that are “predominantly” white, Iowa deer management biologist Willy Suchy says the law has not been a problem for hunters or enforcement in their state.

Amy’s proposal to change the definition of white deer passed at the WCC county hearings both years, but was ultimately nixed by higher committees who didn’t feel color definition was an issue. Other people have voiced the opinion that once completely white deer were protected, hunters wouldn’t take a chance shooting a deer with a questionable coat.

But, this has not been the case. Color determination was a major issue in this Clark County article and also in a Michigan case that ultimately got white deer protection overturned in that state. A paragraph on this website (“When is white not white?“) also examines the difficulty with present Wisconsin law. Color definition is indeed a very important issue.

The white buck kill in Leland three years ago resulted in a media storm and much public outrage. The kill this time has silently moved through the local grapevine, but not without considerable disbelief and more than a few expletives.

The difference? The hunter this time was not from out of town, but an area farmer who took great pride in his “trophy,” although neighbors, who had sometimes seen the white buck on a daily basis, were horrified.

This buck had a little bit of brown on one hip, so, yes, he was legal to shoot. But once again, a selfish act by one hunter deprives an entire neighborhood of a deer that everyone else enjoyed just watching. Even to see such a rare deer is an experience most people won’t have in a lifetime.

And once again, the shooting shows how out of synch the law is with ethics and public opinion. The law needs to be changed so that deer with even a small amount of brown are protected, too. Hopefully, something good will come out of this great loss to the community.