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A man in Northern Michigan spotted the rarest of the rare deers on his property on May 29—a ‘pitch black’ deer caused by an extremely uncommon genetic mutation.

“I see a lot of critters up here but I have never seen nor even heard of one of these. I was taking my trailer back to my pole barn property yesterday and so drove past the driveway in order to back in,” John Roach wrote on Facebook.

“As I looked to my left I saw 2 deer in the lane that runs to the back of the property-nothing unusual except that one was typical and one was pitch black. I had my phone on the seat and was able to get 2 good shots of them before they ran to the pines to the west,” he posted.

Black Deer or Melanistic Whitetails are black in color because of a rare but random genetic mutation makes them produce more of the pigment melanin.

“Melanistic whitetails are a true gem of whitetail color morphs. With very low odds for this genetic mutation and low reported harvest, viewing a wild melanistic whitetail is a true rarity, even for deer biologists who work where they are most prevalent,” said Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) on its website.

The association reports that the first black deer was reported in 1929 and they have been reported in Mississippi, Michigan, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Texas, and South Carolina since. They can be found whenever the mutation happens.


Steve Griffith, a Wildlife Biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR,) told ABC6 that black deers are even rarer to find than albino deer.

“I’ve never seen one, and I have been working for the DNR for 20 years. My understanding is it’s rare.


“I’ve seen several albino deer including at least one in the Traverse City area,” said Griffith. “So, this will be the other end of the spectrum from an albino deer. This is the first one.”

According to Mossy Oak, an organization involved in hunting, conservation, stewardship and legacy efforts, “By definition, an albino deer is totally absent of body pigment and is solid white with pink eyes, nose, and hooves.
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