A white fallow deer has taken up residence in a field near the village of Manotick in south Ottawa, much to the delight of nearby residents.
The deer, a male deer native to Europe but not North America, was first spotted along River Road in Manotick in September.
Looking like something out of the pages of a children’s fairy tale, the white, muscular buck still sports his distinctive back-like, webbed, or moose-like antlers.
Hikers and dog walkers along the Osgoode Link trail began to spot the animal’s shiny white coat shining through the trees.
Resident Lolita Graham said her husband didn’t believe her when she told him about the deer’s whereabouts.
The couple were preparing for a wedding when she spotted the white stag through a nearby window.
“He walked along the fence and disappeared there,” she pointed to a field south of her family’s property.
Graham turned to the internet to look at examples of albino deer, as well as elk and caribou, but none quite matched the body shape and antler profile of the animal she had seen.
A few weeks later, while friends were visiting, Bob Graham teased his wife, saying, “Did you tell them about the unicorn you saw in the back?”
Deer from Turkey
The figure of a white stag, an animal native to Turkey, appeared in Greek and Celtic mythology, and even in Arthurian legend.
“Hunters of old pursued the miraculous deer,” Robert Baden-Powell told a world gathering of Boy Scouts in 1933, “not because they expected to kill it, but because it led in the joy of the hunt to new and fresh adventures, and in order to capture happiness.”
The Manotick white deer has had more adventures than it could handle this winter, said Pierre Leonard, who keeps horses in a field adjacent to the Grahams’ property and has become something of a guardian angel for the visitor.
The net is entangled in its antlers and Leonard thinks this is proof that someone tried to capture the deer.
“So we try not to get too close to him,” he said.
WATCH | Appearance of white deer strains Residents of Manotick:
The farmer takes care of the deer
When the weather turned frigid and the white deer began to falter, Leonard bought specially fortified deer feed from a farm supply store and began leaving it for the deer.
The deer is now accustomed to Leonard’s near-silent e-MTB which he uses to do the regular rounds.
When the white deer began to reappear in his yard alongside the horses, the farmer decided to leave the gate open so the creature could come and go unhindered.
The snow was deep and the deer eventually forced their way into a disused shed on Leonard’s property where they slept.
“He’s put on some weight and now looks healthy,” said Leonard, who joked that the deer had adopted his five horses.
Probably came from a deer farm
Keith Munro, wildlife biologist with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, said fallow deer are likely to shed their antlers this month.
Munro said the animal likely came from one of approximately 350 deer farms in Ontario.
He said the federation opposes deer farms because pathogens, especially chronic wasting disease, can spread from farmed animals to the wild population.
He is also concerned that a captive-bred deer may not coexist well with the native white-tailed deer population.
Fallow deer farms are not required to register with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and a spokesperson said the ministry does not know where the animal could have escaped.
The owner of a deer ranching operation in Ontario is required to report an escape to the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, no active report could be found.