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Rare White Deer At Seneca Army Depot Face Death, Will The Amish Or Native Americans Save Them?

In a Nov. 29, 2012 photo provided by Seneca White Deer Inc., a white buck stands in underbrush at the former Seneca Army Depot in central New York. There are about 200 white deer, a natural variant of the brown white-tailed deer, on 7,000 acres of the decommissioned site that will soon be put up for bid. Several groups, including Seneca White Deer and The Nature Conservancy, are interested in buying the site to preserve the deer and open the area to tourism and outdoor recreation. (Dennis Money/Seneca White Deer Inc. via AP)

 

Hundreds of rare white deer living at the Seneca Army Depot are in danger of dying if the animals lose their protection by the Army’s fences. The 7,000-acre, fenced-in Seneca Army Depot is being put up for auction, so some groups are trying to get the Amish, Native Americans, and other non-profits to save the future of the rare animal.

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In a related report by the Inquisitr, a real life Bambi and Thumper were caught on video, showing how a deer and a rabbit can be the best of friends.

Before becoming the home for the white deer, Seneca Army Depot was built in 1941 as a munitions bunker before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. According to the Ithaca Journal, the 24 miles of chain-linked fence covered an area larger than the city of Syracuse. Inside 500 concrete bunkers the U.S. military stored bombs, ammunition, and other ordinance. The Seneca Army Depot was eventually closed in 2000, but the Army Corps of Engineers will be maintaining the site through the end of 2015.

Bob Aronson, executive director of the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency, plans on selling the land to one of several interested buyers, including farmers who would use the forest land for cattle and growing crops. If this sale occurs, it is feared the rare white deer will not be able to survive without the protection of the Seneca Army Depot, since they are often short-lived in the wild. Besides being easy prey for local predators, the white deer may also be targeted by hunters interested in their rare pelt.

“I see white deer every day,” said Lisette Wilson, who runs a store near to the Seneca Army Depot. “They’re beautiful animals. I’m very concerned they’ll lose their habitat when the property is sold.”

The only other locations in the world where the white deer roam free is the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois and certain protected sites within Ireland. In this case, the white deer are not albinos, which lack pigments throughout their body. Instead, the rare white deer have a genetic mutation which causes them to lose the normal brown pigment only in their fur.

“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,” said Dennis Money of non-profit Seneca White Deer Inc. “People are enchanted by them.”

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White Deer Prophecy [Image via Dennis Money/Seneca White Deer Inc.]

Money also explained that Native Americans like the local Cayuga tribe have religious traditions related to the white deer. For example, the “White Deer Prophecy” is part of the tribe’s oral tradition.

“It has long been predicted there would come a time when a white male and female deer would be seen together, and this would sign to the people to come together,” the White Deer Prophecy says, according to Syracuse.

When representatives once saw an actual white deer feeding inside the Seneca Army Depot, Money says the Native Americans started crying and then “right there they pulled out a 2-foot-long, peace pipe and we smoked it together.”

The head of Seneca White Deer Inc. would like to purchase the Seneca Army Depot’s land. Money says his group is already partnering with the Nature Conservancy to raise money, but since the price is in the seven figures range, he admits his group needs help. Unfortunately, none of the Native American groups are likely to become involved in the bidding process, but Money hopes he can partner with local farmers or the Amish community in order to purchase at least 2,000 to 3,000 acres of the available land.

There are other ways to save the white deer of Seneca Army Depot. Mr. Aronson also said he would sell the land contained within the borders of the towns Varick and Romulus for a single dollar if the towns agree to market the land for themselves. If this deal goes through, Varick Town Supervisor Bob Hayssen said they’ll “earmark 1,000 acres as an eco-park for the white deer.”

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[Image via Dave Kettering]

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