Alaska Department of Fish & Game biologist Phil Mooney was tagging mountain goats on Baranof Island outside of Sitka in late August and saw the unusual animal from his helicopter.
“While we were flying in to drop me on the ridge we spotted them. I actually thought it was a goat mixed in with the deer, which we have seen sometimes. But it turned out to be this deer.”
The Sitka black-tailed deer is a buck, still in velvet. The animal is a very light, bluish gray. When a black bear has this kind of coloring, it’s called a “glacier bear.”
Neither the glacier bear nor the “glacier deer” is an albino. Mooney says it’s a recessive gene found – every once in a while – on Admiralty, Baranof, and Chichagof islands.
We have had a few of these come in over the years on the three islands, taken by hunters who caught one of these walking by.
The same genetic arrangement affects other types of mule deer, as well as whitetails. Mooney says that the coloring can be highly variable – sometimes going to black, or displaying combinations of this light gray with patches of a more typical brown showing through.
The glacier deer was one of a herd of fourteen bucks and two “very content” does, Mooney says.