At age 6, Parker Swart is a serious student of deer and a lot of other wildlife. He watches deer from his home in rural Duluth, and his family takes photos of them. On Thursday, Parker and his family saw the most unusual deer they had ever seen — a so-called “piebald” deer.
His grandmother, Colleen Jeronimus, was at his home and saw the deer first.
“I saw what I thought was a moving snowbank,” Jeronimus said. “I thought, ‘How could a snowbank move?’ It was just an incredible sight.”
The deer came to some feed that Parker’s family had put out. His mom, Sara Swart, was able to get several photos of it.
Nancy Hansen, Department of Natural Resources area wildlife manager at Two Harbors, confirmed that the deer is piebald.
“It’s an inherited trait and occurs (in general) in about 1 percent of the population,” Hansen said in an email. “Some local populations, especially if the deer are protected from harvest, may have higher levels of piebald occurrence. True albino deer (pure white coats and pink eyes) are rare. The same is true for melanism (very dark coloring) in deer.
“Sometimes piebald deer don’t just show coat color differences but also have physical deformities. This can include skeletal abnormalities such as dorsal bowing of the nose, short/malformed legs, curvature of the spine and malformations of internal organs. Severely deformed fawns usually don’t survive very long after birth. Outside of winter, piebald deer are usually at a disadvantage compared to other deer because they are much more visible on the landscape.”
For now, it appears, this deer is well-camouflaged.