LELAND | The opening of another hunting season has some residents worried about the loss of a town treasure: the white deer.
Last fall the shooting of two white deer near the town of Leland sparked protest by some residents who cherish the rare animals. Working with state lawmakers, advocates convinced the state Department of Natural Resources to include a ban on white deer hunting within a proposed package of hunting rule changes.
But one of the group’s leaders, Amy Sprecher, says the rule change may be too little, too late.
“We’re trying to get them to take some action before the gun season,” Sprecher said. “Will they? I doubt it.”
She said supporters had hoped the state Natural Resources Board would act on emergency measures within the package of changes – called the Deer Trustee Report – prior to the state’s nine-day gun-deer season this month. However, the board is not slated to take up the matter again until December.
Sprecher is encouraging people who wish to protect white deer to fill out a DNR survey regarding the trustee report that is available on the agency’s website, and to contact members of the Natural Resources Board.
Already this fall, Sprecher said, an archer shot a white deer near Mazomanie. But the hunter was unable to find the animal, and a farmer later located it on his property. By that time, its body had been mostly eaten by other animals, Sprecher said.
DNR wildlife expert Eric Lobner said he had not been able to confirm that the kill had taken place as of Friday.
The killing of white or albino deer was illegal throughout Wisconsin until 2008, when the rule was reversed in certain zones where chronic wasting disease is common among deer. The change was intended to combat the spread of the disease.
However, the trustee report recommends reversing the rule and once again making the harvesting of white deer illegal throughout the state.
A team that evaluated the proposal wrote in a report that there is not “sufficient value from the harvest of white deer for CWD management to make it worthwhile to have a different rule on white deer harvest in CWD Zones from the rest of the state.”
Some in the town of Leland, which has a small population of white deer, have parties to swap stories and pictures of the animals. But not everyone shares their love of the animals.
Leroy Schell, owner of the Schellter Bar, said hunting white deer is legal, even if some frown upon it. Schell’s bar is also a registration station for deer shot in the area.
“It’s legal, and you’re within your legal rights to shoot the white deer,” Schell said. “I don’t encourage it, and I wouldn’t shoot one myself, but if someone shoots one I will register it.”