Leonard Raleigh thought it was just a shadow when he saw the solid black white-tailed deer fawn standing off the side of U.S. 64 Business.
His wife first noticed the young fawn standing with an older white-tailed doe and an albino fawn as they were driving by, looking for something to do after Hurricane Harvey knocked out their power in September. Raleigh said he told her there’s no such thing, but turned the truck around anyway, stopped in the median and snapped a photo with his cell phone.
“I was wrong. There was a freaking black deer there,” Raleigh wrote later on his SEO and content marketing company’s website.
“I squinted and thought that it was just a shadow, then I thought it was a goat, then a black dog, then it moved and was eating grass, then it nibbled on the tree above it and followed along with mom and the albino,” he said.
Raleigh saw the albino fawn in the same place a few weeks later and decided to stalk it to get a better photo. His persistence paid off as the sun was setting on Sept. 19 when the black fawn appeared. He was able to get one good photo to confirm what he was seeing, he said.
The Wildlife Commission told him they were aware of black deer but had no reports of any in central North Carolina, Raleigh said.
“There’s a big group of deer that are pretty friendly,” Raleigh said. “They see all the cars going by on U.S. 64. Sometimes people stop to see the white deer. I haven’t seen any of them (since), but hunting season started out here a few weeks ago.”
Spotting an albino deer is pretty rare – about one in 30,000 deer lack the gene for melanin – the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission reports. Residents of northern Carrboro in Orange County have reported one for years near the farms and wooded areas of Calvander.
Piebald deer, which are brown and white because only some of their cells produce melanin, also are pretty rare.
But melanistic or melanic deer are the rarest, born with extra melanin that makes them extremely dark and sometimes black, the Wildlife Commission reports.
Biologists don’t know what produces the trait, but a large number of the black deer are concentrated in an eight-county region of central Texas, according to Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Quite a few have been harvested there and are considered trophy kills.
Raleigh is a hunter, but the deer is on private property and within the city limits, he said. His buddies, when he showed them the picture, said “it’s like a Sasquatch!”
“I had a long talk with my dad on what to do if we encountered it in the wild,” Raleigh said. “He said he would let it walk, and I said I wasn’t sure.”