Just how rare are albino mule deer? Not even biologists have a definitive answer, yet some speculate that only one in 500,000 mule deer are born albino. Albinism occurs in mule deer far less frequently than in whitetail, and few ever survive into adulthood. That is why when Jeff Foster harvested a young albino mule deer buck, he suspected that it could be the only one of its kind.

“In 2010 me and a couple friends of mine were in Kaycee, Wyoming and I spotted this albino mule deer,” Foster told me. “I saw it three times and on the third time I showed it to my friends on the spotting scope and I was like, ‘Look at that!'”

Foster is an avid hunter from Swansea, Illinois, and while he travels all over the country in pursuit of game, what he saw four years ago in Wyoming stayed with him—a young buck as white as salt in the woods of Kaycee. One year later Foster returned to the same spot in the hopes of finding it again. Much to his surprise, the bowhunter found it only a half hour from where he parked on state ground.

“I was extremely lucky and I got it on my first night out hunting,” he said. “I practically ran into it.”

The buck now had two spikes on it and was feeding just about 60 yards from him.

“I was basically a nervous wreck,” Foster said, adding that he had to fight to keep his aim steady. “I knew that if I missed, I was never going to have another chance at something like it again.”

Jeff Foster said he practically tripped over this deer on a 2011 hunting trip.
Jeff Foster said he practically tripped over this deer on a 2011 hunting trip.

But soon Foster had the deer safely with his taxidermist. That was when he decided to do a little research on albino mule deer. It seemed that all sightings of albinism in mule deer were does, and very little information ever came up on albino bucks. In fact, Foster said that after reaching out to biologists and game wardens, none had ever heard of one being harvested by a hunter. I did some research of my own and found little to show for it as well. Around the same time that Foster bagged his buck, a photographer in Billings, Montana took a picture of an albino mule deer doe.

“I’ve hunted all my life and have never seen anything else like that,” the photographer, Nels Houghton, told the Billings Gazette. “I was pretty excited about it.”

Want to read more about rare deer? Learn all about a Michigan 11-year-old’s recent harvest of an albino whitetail buck here.

Former Montana biologist Jay Newell said that he had only seen three albino mule deer during his time on the job, although he never specified whether any of them were male. Another biologist, Bill Wisherd of Alberta Fish and Wildlife, said he never even heard of an albino mule deer buck. Yet a few years ago, Wisherd heard the story of an old mounted mule deer doe in Edmonton. This creature was owned by Greg Szewaga, who told Canada.com that he himself bought it from the farmer who originally shot the deer back in the 1970s. Szewaga never disclosed how much he paid for the doe, but said that he intends to sell it.

“I’ll make a million with it,” Szewaga said in 2006.

Foster, however, just wants his deer somewhere that people can appreciate it.

“I would love to find a home for this deer, I want to do something cool with it. I don’t consider myself a trophy hunter, but I want to get this deer someplace where people can see it,” Foster said. “The game warden called me [not long after the hunt] and actually came in to authenticate the animal along with the taxidermist. We have an affidavit and everything set up.”

While Foster is understandably proud of the deer, he said that he also expect some criticism. Hunters as a whole have mixed opinions about harvesting white or albino animals, and the decision is usually left up to the individual hunter. Some states have laws that ban sportsmen from shooting these rare animals, but other states have since lifted them. Many wildlife biologists now consider albinism bad for deer herds, as animals born with the condition generally suffer from health issues and rarely survive into adulthood. Their white color also makes them a big target for predators.

“Albinism is a regressive trait and you don’t actually want albinos in the herd because it passes on bad traits,” Foster said. “Their hearing is less, their eyesight is less, their immune system is less. Even though they are rare, they’re actually bad for the herd.”

That being said, they are still strange and eerily beautiful creatures. Foster is continuing to do research on whether his buck is the only one of its kind, but he said that he is pleased with his deer either way. I have also reached out to several biologists and experts to see what they know about the subject.

What do you think? Have you ever seen an albino mule deer buck like this one?

Images courtesy Jeff Foster

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6 thoughts on “One of a Kind? Jeff Foster’s 2011 Albino Mule Deer Buck

  1. Saw such a fawn in Montana some time ago. Othert deer in the herd kept pestering it, apparently starved that winter, found in snowdrift.

  2. I think it’s a travesty that this albino buck was killed by a hunter…in the thought process before the kill, it was never mentioned that ‘uh-oh, that albino is bad for the herd, I better keep the herd strong and eliminate that deer’…no, it was ‘I knew if I missed, I was never going to have a chance at something like it again’ because of the rarity of the animal…every excuse is given to try to make it seem as though killing it is the right thing to do…it is not…and if Mr. Foster isn’t a trophy hunter, why are all those heads on his trophy wall???

      1. Hi there, Doc, thanks for the comment…not the part about me being a pompous ass, of course, but the part about the trophy wall actually being the taxidermist’s shop…but why in the world are you so angry???

      2. Not angry, stating facts. Something you knee jerk libs don’t care about. I’ve seen your comments on another article recently about an albino whitetail that was killed by a young hunter. What don’t you understand about it being a negative trait not a positive one. A defect that is not desired back in the herd. By either the wildlife managers or the deer. It’s rare in the sense that it’s an aberration. Which is why the herd won’t tolerate it. So what if they have been taken, in addition to the meat, for their unique coloring. It’s not illegal, it’s not a sin. Just because the hunter said he’s not a trophy hunter doesn’t mean he doesn’t take a trophy if the opportunity presents itself. I’m not a trophy hunter either, but I’m not passing on a trophy deer if it presents itself. Like this hunter, my priority is for meat on the table. A trophy hunter is willing to live without venison for the chance at a trophy. I’m not. Therefore, I’m not a trophy hunter. But it doesn’t mean I breach that claim if I do take a trophy. Does that help?

      3. Doc, there you go calling me names again…I’m actually not a knee jerk lib…not that it matters, because that’s what anyone who isn’t in favor of hunting always hears…as far as the albino deer, you said yourself the herd won’t tolerate it…maybe the herd should be allowed to manage it, as well…

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