The number of white deer in confined herd is down as future of herd sits in doubt.
A herd of white deer, isolated for decades within the confines of the old Seneca Army Depot in New York, may be in more trouble than previously thought.
A recessive gene causing a lack of pigmentation has resulted in hundreds of white deer within the facility. They aren't quite true albinos, but the facility's high fences allowed the gene to thrive in the herd for decades. But since the Army has ended operations at the depot and began turning the land over to local developers, the future of the white deer living within the high border fences of the facility has been in question.
A new aerial survey conducted Tuesday by the president of Seneca White Deer Inc., Dennis Money and a local winery owner John Ingle has revealed the unique white deer herd may be in more trouble than originally thought. Just 75-80 white deer were counted in the various areas of the depot. It's a significant drop considering the last survey by the Army eight years ago found 185-200 deer with the recessive gene.
"It was certainly disappointing only to see that few white deer, as it that is a significant reduction in the herd size since the last census about eight years ago," Money told the Democrat and Chronicle.
Seneca White Deer Inc. (SWD) has been working for months now with the Nature Conservancy to try and acquire about 3,000 acres of the former depot to preserve for public recreational and tourism opportunities.
Exactly why the number is down isn't exactly known, but there's a possibility of harsh winters combined with possible poaching and predation contributed. There's also the possibility of some of the deer escaping when sections of fence were damaged in car accidents and not immediately repaired.
While the lower numbers might be a little concerning, there could be good news for the herd coming as soon as next week. The Seneca County Board of Supervisors votes next week on whether Seneca County will take control of the depot, of which ownership currently lies with the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency.
If they do approve the transfer, SWD's plans will have come to fruition as they will work directly with the county to preserve the herd and historical buildings of the facility. SWD has already raised over $100,000 in donations and Ingle has pledged to match up to $200,000 of what SWD raises.
It's not a definite just yet. The Democrat and Chronicle reports there are still some on the board of supervisors who aren't onboard with the plan. SWD is working to make locals aware and get them to attend the meeting and show support for the white deer.
"We have no idea who will show but we're hoping to fill the chamber with supporters and the supervisors will hopefully feel the pressure to vote yes," Money said.
He noted how the herd's potential troubles have been in and out national news these past few months. "It's a world issue," Money said. "People are watching Seneca County. People care about these deer."