What Will Happen To Seneca's Rare White Deer?
Concerned residents are wondering what will happen to the population of rare white deer that have lived and reproduced on land surrounding a former Army weapons depot, now that it's up for bid next month. Approximately 200 white deer have thrived in a 7,000-acre fenced in area at the old Seneca Army Depot in New York since the middle of last century, but the sale means they could all disappear.
An AP story featured on Yahoo News reports that a group of residents dedicated to saving the animals propose turning the old depot, which was once a Cold War storehouse of bombs and ammunition, into a tourist attraction to show off both its military history and its unique herd of white deer. The Nature Conservancy is also considering options for preserving the landscape and the deer.
Dennis Money of Seneca White Deer Inc., said, 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. People are enchanted by them."
When the depot was built in 1941, 24 miles of chain-link perimeter fencing went up, capturing several dozen wild white-tailed deer within its confines. Some of the deer carried genetic markers for the white coloring. The white deer there now are not albinos, which lack all pigment. They are leucistic, which means they lack pigment only in their fur.
Due to their stark white coloring, white deer rarely survive in the wild because they are easy targets for predators.
The Seneca Army Depot has the largest known population of white white-tailed deer, due to the protective fencing. If buyers remove the fence, the 200 white deer are not expected to last long because of predators and hunters.
"They're a huge tourist attraction," said Lisette Wilson, who runs a farm store and bakery with her husband across the highway from the depot fence. "People are astonished. It's quite the spectacle for them." The store's most popular product is "White Deer Poop," a sweet treat made of white chocolate, almonds, and cranberries.
Bob Aronson, executive director of the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency, said he plans to sell the whole parcel by the end of the year. He said all offers will be considered and that the greatest interest has been from farmers who would graze cattle and grow crops on the land.
Seneca White Deer has launched a fundraising drive in hopes of buying at least 2,000 to 3,000 acres, if not the whole site, for a tourist attraction and wildlife preserve.
Jim Howe, director of The Nature Conservancy's regional chapter, said the preservation group hopes to work with other groups to protect the former depot's wildlife habitat while opening it for recreation, tourism, and sustainable economic development.
Aronson has also offered to sale the land to the towns of Varick and Romulus, where the depot lies, for a dollar if they want to market it themselves.
Bob Hayssen, Varick town supervisor, said his town is considering the deal.
If we get it, he said, we'll earmark 1,000 acres as an eco-park for the white deer.
Do you think the rare herd of white white-tailed deer should be protected? If not, why? If so, what do you think is the best method for protecting them?
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