It takes two albino parents, one albino and one brown parent with an albino gene, or two brown parents—each carrying a recessive white gene—to produce a rare, albino fawn. Albino deer often have brown fawns.

Throughout history, people have been fascinated by wild animals that are all white. True to tradition, in Wisconsin, where I live, residents have a special affinity for and pride in the albino white-tailed deer herd that lives in our Northwoods.

Many Wisconsin Native American tribes have ancient stories about white deer, so it seems that albino deer have been in Wisconsin as long as white-tailed deer have been here. Encounters with solid white deer were also documented in journal entries by early European explorers in our big woods country. What we don’t know is why such an unusually high number of albino deer now live near one particular northern Wisconsin town: Boulder Junction.

According to biologists, the recessive gene that causes albinism in white-tailed deer is very uncommon: the chances of an albino deer being born are only one in 20,000. In addition, the solid white coats of the deer make them more susceptible to attack from predators, dramatically decreasing their overall survival rate.

Some sources say the chances of an albino deer being born are one in 20,000; others say one in 30,000. Either way, if you ever see a white deer, you’re one of the lucky few. ©Rebecca Sayers, flickr

Perhaps that’s why we Wisconsinites are so protective of these “ghosts of the forest.” Although there’s a long-standing deer-hunting tradition here, albinos are off-limits. We have laws to protect them; the 2016 Wisconsin deer hunting regulations specially state, “Albino and white deer may not be harvested.”

Some Native Americans saw all-white animals during vision quests. You can see a few of Wisconsin’s albino deer in the two videos below. In the first, several of these deer wander through the forest near Boulder Junction in winter. In the second, an albino mother brings her two playful, brown-colored fawns to a Wisconsin meadow in summer.

In any season, spotting these stunning deer is an unforgettable experience. They certainly are ethereal visions.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,