KIDS ASK: What Is a Piebald Deer?

A piebald deer (like the deer on the left in the photo) has brown and white markings on its body.The unpigmented areas are usually white, the pigmented areas are brown. The deer’s skin, underneath its coat, is also pigmented under the dark patches and unpigmented under the white patches. The spotting on the deer is very uneven and irregular with no set pattern.

Unlike an albino deer, which has pink eyes, a pink nose, and pinkish hooves, piebald deer have normal brown eyes and nose with black hooves like a normal white tail. This unusual coloration is due to a rare inherited genetic variation (defect) that affects less than one percent of the white-tailed deer population. Piebald deer can also have other physical defects including a bowing of the nose, shorter legs, an arching spine, a short lower jaw, and problems with internal organs.

As you can see, piebald deer do not blend as well with the trees and leaves in the forest as normally colored deer, so they are much easier to spot. This makes them an easier target for hunters, although many hunters believe it is bad luck to take a piebald deer.

This piebald deer, along with two others, lives on Seabrook Island, South Carolina.