White buck spotted in East Tennessee likely an escaped exotic deer, TWRA says
It’s looking like Christmas came a little early to the Tri-Cities, with a white buck reminiscent of Santa’s reindeers was spotted by residents of Johnson City and Jonesborough over the last week.
Many posters on social media speculated the buck was an albino or pie-bald white-tailed deer, a species native to Tennessee.
But a spokesperson from Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency told Knox News the buck appears to be a fallow deer or sika deer, both of which are exotic species from Europe and Asia.
“We aren’t sure of its origin,” said Communications and Outreach Coordinator Matthew Cameron. “Since there is not a hunting preserve close by, it may be difficult to ascertain who owns the animal.”
Cameron said it is very likely the same white deer that has been sighted in several places across upper East Tennessee.
“The rut for both sika deer and fallow deer is during October, so it makes sense why this buck is covering so much territory,” he said.
Who is responsible for protecting the buck?
Fallow deer and sika deer are species that fall under regulations from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Cameron said, adding the department’s investigators have been notified.
Last year, there was a similar situation in West Tennessee, he said, adding the agriculture department’s investigators found and contacted the owner of the escaped animals and took care of the problem.
“If it was a direct purchase and import into Tennessee, the owner would have to have a permit or authorization from TDA,” Cameron said. “They require a health certificate and the purchaser must follow all importation requirements. If the animal was purchased at an exotic auction or (from) someone inside the state, it will be very difficult to find the owner.”
Aren’t albino deer protected in Tennessee?
The buck that people have been spotting appears to be an albino, which brings up the question if it’s legal to harvest, Cameron said.
The wildlife agency’s hunting guide states on page 24 that hunting, trapping or possession of albino deer is prohibited, he noted, explaining an albino deer is a deer that has a lack, or significant deficiency, of pigment in the skin and hair, and that has pink eyes.
But those rules would not apply to this deer because it is not protected by wildlife laws and would be equatable to someone’s livestock that is on the loose,” Cameron said.
“We do not manage exotic species,” he said. “The albino part is actually a moot point since it an exotic species.”
White deer would be considered livestock, TWRA says
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has no plans to locate or capture the deer, Cameron said, explaining the buck is considered livestock that is on the loose and it is unprotected by wildlife laws.
“We don’t see any direct threat to our wildlife because they cannot crossbreed with our native white-tailed deer,” he said. “However, it could cause property damage for farmers or other landowners … If the escaped animal is causing damage to property, the owner of such property has the right to euthanize the animal.”
“It’s a beautiful animal, so enjoy the moment,” he said. “And if known, contact its owner to come get it.”
Liz Kellar is a Tennessee Connect reporter. Email [email protected]. Support strong local journalism by subscribing at knoxnews.com/subscribe.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: White buck spotted in East Tennessee might be non-native sika deer