A rare albino deer has been spotted on land surrounding Sacramento County’s big water treatment plant north of Elk Grove.
About a dozen black-tailed mule deer roam the Bufferlands, the 2,150 acres of open space surrounding the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant. One of them, it turns out, is all white.
The image of the fawn with a normally colored sibling and its mother was captured at night on Regional Sanitation’s automatic trail-camera, the albino deer is ghostly in contrast to its family members. A photograph at the end of the video on the sanitation department’s Facebook page shows the albino deer during the day in mid-September.
Bryan Young, natural resource supervisor for Regional Sanitation, said the albino was probably born in late spring.
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“It does not have antlers, but we are seeing a couple of protrusions where those antlers are going to come in so we expect we have an albino, black-tailed deer buck.”
An albino deer has an absence of pigment. The absence of pigment results in an all-white appearance and pink eyes.
Most white deer are not true albinos, but have leucism, a recessive genetic trait. Leucistic deer can be all-white or have some brown – and the nose is black.
“Just based on the lack of pigmentation and the pinkness you see in the ears and around the eyes leads us to believe this is a true albino,” Young said. “It’s pretty amazing. It’s just a chance occurrence.”
Because they lack the camouflage of normally colored deer, white deer are easier prey. The biggest predator of deer are mountain lions, but there have not been any cougars spotted on the Bufferlands.
“We are hoping that this guy lives, matures and reproduces,” Young said.
The Bufferlands, north of Elk Grove between Interstate 5 and Franklin Boulevard, was created to put distance between humans and waste treatment, minimizing the possibility of odor intrusion on suburbia.
Bufferlands has a diverse amount of wildlife for such a compact space, including Swainson’s hawks, coyotes and giant garter snakes.
The plant is surrounded by homes and I-5. Young suspects the Bufferlands deer came from the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Deer were first spotted at the Bufferlands in 2012.
“We don’t have a huge population of deer, so for one of them to be albino is quite unique,” Young said.
The Bufferlands are not open to the public. However, the sanitation district does offer guided tours through the Bufferlands website.
“The last tour I did in November we got to see the albino deer on that hike,” Young said. “That was a special treat.”