For the last 11 years, an albino doe has been more than just another denizen of the woods in the region of Deer Creek Road in Bayfield County between Ashland and the village of Sanborn.
The white deer was born and lived her whole life there, becoming unusually friendly with those who lived in the neighborhood.
“She was in my yard all the time; she was almost like a pet,” said Norm Mackey.
“She would eat right out of your hand, if you wanted her to,” recalled Mary Jo Tuckwell.
None of the neighbors living on Deer Creek Road would have dreamed of harming the white deer, as she was known.
“She was like the matriarch of the whole neighborhood,” said John Roguski.
But apparently someone wished her harm. One day in late July, Roguski, who lives in Ashland, was bringing some ice cream over to his grandkids who live on Deer Creek Road when he saw a pair of turkey vultures circling overhead.
“I just thought I’d check it out, he said.
He didn’t have to go far off the road. Just inside the tree line was the albino doe, dead, and already partially scavenged. Roguski suspected she might have been hit by a vehicle, but could find no broken bones. That raised Roguski’s suspicions that the deer had been poached, and he placed a call to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Conservation Warden Matt Koshollek. Koshollek examined the carcass and discovered a bullet hole in one of the animal’s ribs, said John’s son Tim Roguski.
White deer, true albinos, are a normal part of the Northwoods landscape, but incredibly rare ones. The genetic abnormality strikes about one in 30,000 deer and makes it more difficult for the animals to survive because they stand out so starkly in the green and brown backgrounds of woods and fields.
Koshollek declined to confirm that a gunshot was the cause of the doe’s death, but did say the matter was under investigation by the DNR as a poaching case.
The possibility that the white deer met her end as the result of a poacher’s bullet has angered the tiny Deer Creek community.
“She was a fawn when my husband and I moved in here in 2008,” said Tuckwell. “We have watched her grow, have her own fawns and become the center of the neighborhood for several of us. We made sure she didn’t go hungry in the winter. She was a part of the neighborhood family. It’s just so inhumane, there is no other way to describe it.”
Tuckwell said although 11 is a respectable age for a doe, the white deer had a fawn this spring. That fact may mean that the doe’s death was a double tragedy.
“She was still suckling the fawn a week before she died,” Tuckwell said. “I haven’t seen it since the mother died.”
Tuckwell said she cried when she heard the news that the deer had likely been shot, and said she chokes up whenever she thinks about it.
“She did nothing wrong to anybody, for her to be purposely targeted and shot is horrible,” she said.
Tuckwell said she and others in the neighborhood would like to see the culprit brought to justice. She said there has been discussion of establishing a reward fund for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever shot the white deer.
Among those who hope an arrest will take place is John Roguski. He noted that there have been thrill killings of deer in Bayfield County in the past.
“Where is this all going to end?” he asked. “Will it be a family pet next time? Houses? Automobiles?”
Roguski said even if the culprit is found it won’t make up for the loss of the Deer Creek road’s beloved white deer.
“I first saw her when she was maybe an hour old. She got up all wet and wobbly,” he said. “It is so upsetting to see something like that happen to such a beautiful little animal.”
Anyone with information about the shooting of the Deer Creek white deer is asked to call or text the DNR Hotline at 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367 to confidentially share their information.