'Ghost' deer haunts small Quebec town

BOB MELLOR, News Editor
The Low down to Hull and back News
Posted 10.18.02

LOW, QUEBEC | Justin Francis had trouble convincing his friends of what he'd seen.

"They thought I was crazy", said the 14-year old grade 9 student, who is the son of Mayor Mike Francis of Low.

That was until he showed them the video of the rare white fawn he'd spotted on the family property.

"At first I didn't know what it was," he said. "I wondered if it was a goat ."

But he's spotted the ghostly deer four times now, including the occasion when he had a videocam to record it, and there's little doubt it's indeed a deer especially since it's always seen in the company of a white-tail doe that is obviously its mother.

It's also accompanied by what appears to be a yearling, probably its sibling, whose legs are white.

"It's pretty amazing", says Justin. "I'd like to see it when it grows up."

Although rare, white deer appear frequently enough that there are numerous first nation legends built around them, often depicting them as the spirit of humans that were magically transformed. Some Indian legends have it that a white deer can only be killed by a silver bullet or arrow point, and that the hunter will always suffer dire consequences. Nevertheless, the pelt of a white deer was prized in many tribes for making wedding dresses.

ONE IN 10,000

Some biologists say that one in 10,000 deer is white or mostly white. Most species, including humans, occasionally give birth to albinos offspring without skin or hair colouring usually distinguished by having pink eyes.

Justin says he hasn't been close enough to the deer he and his father call Little Casper after the friendly cartoon ghost to tell whether its eyes are pink or not. But it does have some dark markings on its head, so it probably falls into the category of palominos which are less rare.

Justin fears that with hunting season upon us, some hunter might be tempted to take the white fawn because of its rarity. Even though the hunter would be wasting his license on an animal that wouldn't yield much meat, the pelt might be a temptation.

Mayor Francis, who generally allows hunters on his property during deer season, says they'll be told that the white deer is off limits.

Jim Routliffe of Wakefield, who has also seen the white deer, and is a hunter, says he'd leave it alone. "For one thing, shooting a white deer brings you a lot of bad luck."

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