Time is running out for what is believed to be the largest herd of white deer in the world.
The abandoned Seneca Army Base in upstate New York has been the home to a unique herd of white deer for more than half a century.
The herd, which also includes brown whitetails, has grown up inside the 24-mile fence surrounding the base since it was built in 1941.
A Unique HerdThe white deer on the Seneca Army Base are not albino. Their white coloration comes from recessive genes developed over years of isolation within the base.
As the deer multiplied over the years, the base opened up limited hunts to manage the herd, but they kept the white deer off limits. They were popular with soldiers on the base, and over the year, they became a cultural landmark of the region.
In 1995, the base was abandoned. Since then, a three man crew from the Army Corps of Engineers has managed the herd and the base property, which lies in the towns of Romulus and Varick.
According to Syracuse.com, the Army Corps crew plans to remove the fence surrounding the base by 2016. When the fence comes down, they will turn over the control of the property to the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency. They plan to sell the property to commercial developers.
When they do, the white deer herd will likely die out. The deer have become tame over the years, and their white coloration makes them vulnerable to predators.
Leading the charge to protect the deer is Seneca White Deer, a local group dedicated to preserving the herd and the depot.
Seneca White Deer wants to turn the base into a tourist attraction. In recent years, they have successfully organized sold out tours of the herd and the base. The group believes that the base as a tourist attraction could not only save the white deer herd, but also boost the local economy.
Regional leaders think the economic benefits from the property will come from putting it back on the tax roll and selling it to developers.
Seneca White Deer has approached the state Department of Environmental and Conservation and the Parks Department about taking over the base, but neither department is interested.
The group is currently working to set aside land for the deer when the fence eventually comes down.
Leaders from both Romulus and Varick will decide what to do with the herd in the coming months.
Do you think the fence around the base should remain? What do you think should be done with the herd? Share your thoughts in the comments section.