The Seneca white deer herd may be saved if Seneca White Deer Inc. gets their way.
The herd of rare white deer that has been isolated and contained entirely within the confines of the fenced-in Seneca Army Depot in Romulus New York has been well known since the depot was founded in 1941. The herd has been largely protected due to the presence of the Army on site.
However, the herd has been in the headlines recently because they face an uncertain future. The Army has long ceased activity at the depot. The property was placed into the hands of the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency. Now the agency is looking to sell off about 7,000 acres.
And Seneca White Deer is looking to acquire 3,000 of the 7,000 available acres through a fundraising effort. “This is a huge opportunity for us,” Seneca White Deer President Dennis Money told the Finger Lake Times. “The IDA has stated that the highest monetary offer will not necessarily win, but the offer that does the most for the local economy will win.”
This could be good news for the organization, as they, along with the Nature Conservancy, are hoping to be able to open the area up for tourism and recreation. There are plans for a visitor center, tours, camping and more. If past interest in the herd is any indicator, they’ll at least have the public’s attention.
“When we ran bus tours on a limited basis between 2006 and 2012, we had people come from all over the United States to see the deer,” Money told the paper. “People are enchanted by them.”
The big hurdle Seneca White Deer will face is the fact there is no plan to further manage the herd. The Army is still maintaining the 8-foot fences surrounding the facility. However, they are planning on leaving sometime this year.
Seneca White Deer’s website says some 800 deer live within the confines of the depot. 200 of these animals are white. The deer are not true albinos, but have a recessive gene that contributes to the lack of pigmentation. White deer were protected in some of the earliest management hunts within the depot and thus a unique situation was created as the recessive gene has been allowed to thrive within the depot’s confines.
One of the major concerns is that without the Army there to manage the herd and maintain the fences and habitat, a decline in white deer could be seen as they escape the isolated environment and begin breeding with the normal wild herd.
Right now, Seneca White Deer seems to be firstly focused on raising funds before the bidding process is started by the IDA on December 15. They plan to use online crowd funding, social media, and more to drive the fundraising effort.
“Our challenge now is to raise the funds necessary to show the IDA that we have the financial backing to make a realistic offer,” Money said. “We have a great business model and a record of success, but to make our case strongly, we need the funds to back it up.”
So it seems the rare white deer herd still has a chance of being preserved.