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Should white deer be hunted? Mercer author and photographer say no

Story By Morgan Johnson
Local News Published 04/12/2021 5:46PM, Last Updated 04/12/2021 10:05PM
Mercer - "White Deer: Ghosts of the Forest."

That's the title of the book that photographer Jeff Richter and author John Bates took decades to perfect.

The book is famous around the country, and sold over 20,000 copies.

It's filled with pictures of rare white deer, mostly found in Vilas County.

"I'm not sure what it is about white animals in general," said Richter. "I notice that I as a photographer am somewhat attracted."

Richter has likely seen more albino deer than anyone.

He's worked for decades to capture these rare deer and he wants others to have the same chance.

Richter does not want white deer to be hunted.

And with the Wisconsin Conservation Congress Spring Hearings beginning Monday night, it brings up the question of if they should be hunted or not.

The question reads "would you support legalizing the harvest of white (not albino) deer statewide?"

Naturalist and author John Bates says "It's an absurd question that's an impossible question."

Bates partnered with Richter and wrote the white deer book.

Bates said the only way to know for sure if a deer is an albino is with a molecular test, adding that albinism is full of misconceptions.

For example, not all albino deer have pink eyes.

"The usual notion is that albino deer has to have pink eyes," said Bates." "But that's not the case."

The albino deer on the front of the book has bluish-grey eyes.

Richter has seen more albino deer than perhaps anyone yet even he doesn't think he could distinguish a white deer from an albino deer from a deer stand.

"I think you're putting hunters in a really untenable position to try to determine if this deer that they're looking at is just a white deer or if it's an albino," said Richter. "Largely when you're hunting you're in low light, animals are obscured, maybe moving quickly past you."

When it all comes down to the question of hunting rare animals in the first place, Bates doesn't think they should end up on someone's wall.

"Why does someone want to hunt white deer? Because it's a rare and beautiful animal and it would be a gorgeous mount in your house," said Bates. "Why do those of us who want to protect white deer want to do so? Because it's a rare and beautiful animal. So the question comes down to, what should be our community response to something that's rare and beautiful?"

To give your input to the Wisconsin DNR, go to this website.
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