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Iowa Outdoors By Brett Reece, State Game Warden

October 25, 2018
Northern-Sun Print
Everyone is familiar with the common coloration of the white-tailed deer found in Iowa. However, the Iowa DNR receives a few calls every year about Whitetail that are predominantly white. Whitetail Deer with coloration that is more than 50 percent white cannot be legally harvested in Iowa. The Iowa Legislature created this protection in 1987 following an uproar when a white deer was killed in the state. Removing these deer from the gene pool through hunting would not be a benefit, just the same as protecting them is not a benefit in biological terms for passing along the color trait. In essence, the protection of predominantly white deer in this state is not based upon biological reasoning; it is simply not socially acceptable to harvest white deer and this 1987 incident led to the present law. People like seeing white deer when the rare occasion presents itself. Over the past few years it has not been uncommon for me to receive yearly reports of a predominately white Whitetail buck deer roaming near Toledo. Area residents enjoyed seeing this oddity and its presence was welcomed by landowners and nature enthusiasts. Based upon the number of sightings of this particular deer, it obviously had a home range that encompassed the timbers to the west and northwest of Toledo. Last year at this time I wrote an article about this particular white deer seen near Toledo. In that article I wrote that at that time observers described this deer as being predominately white and possessing a typical whitetail rack consisting of about eight points. On the night of October 18 of this year I was summoned to a crop field to the northwest of Toledo where an area farmer discovered that our white deer had died from a natural cause. The cause of the white deer’s death was immediately apparent because its antlers were interlocked with the antlers of another whitetail’s. The other deer was of traditional coloration. When initially discovered, our white deer was dead and laying in the field in front of the other deer which was still alive. The surviving deer was obviously distressed and had to be euthanized. From the evidence left in the field, both deer had battled against one another for a long time and could not free themselves from their fatal embrace. It was obvious that the white deer had been dead for days and the survivor had tried unsuccessfully for days to free himself from the antler entanglement. Each deer possessed a typical whitetail rack consisting of 10 points. In the fall, as  testosterone levels rise in white-tailed bucks, they begin working off aggression by rubbing trees with their antlers which builds up shoulder and neck muscles for battles to come. As the breeding season, known as the rut begins, whitetail bucks that were once friendly towards one another quickly become rivals. Bucks battle each other with their antlers to establish territorial dominance and to secure access to receptive does. The rut takes its toll on bucks. They lose a substantial percentage of their body weight over the course of the breeding season, but buck to buck combat can lead to  both direct and indirect mortality. Indirect mortality can come from wounds that become infected or even internal damage from fighting. Direct mortality, although more infrequent, can occur when  the antlers of two bucks become locked together causing one or both animals to die. There have even been instances where three bucks have died after their antlers have locked together. Over the course of my 15-year career I have responded to a number of calls regarding bucks that have entangled themselves after their antlers became locked. One call from Benton County several years ago consisted of two large bucks that died after becoming locked together and entangled in a nearby barb-wire fence…what a mess that was and there were even snapped off fence posts. During my investigation into the demise of the Toledo white buck on October 18, 2018, it quickly became clear to me that this animal left a lasting memory in the minds of area residents who enjoyed observing this deer for the past few years. And in the case of one area resident it was obvious to me that this rare animal and its occasional sighting was inspiration to keep going day after day.



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