Michigan wildlife officials may allow hunting of albino deer

Indian River, Michigan (AP) 6-08

Michigan wildlife officials may drop a rule that forbids killing albino deer, partly because of a legal squabble with a Michigan man who shot a mostly white deer four years ago.

Reversing the moratorium on taking albinos is among several changes in hunting regulations the state Natural Resources Commission considered during a meeting June 4 in Lansing.

A law protecting all-white deer was enacted during the 1980s at the request of an Upper Peninsula legislator and later became part of the state’s wildlife conservation code.

In 2004, Indian River resident John Ingersoll shot a buck in Emmet County that was predominantly white but had patches of brown fur. That made it a piebald deer, not an albino.

It always has been legal to take piebald deer in Michigan, the Cheboygan Daily Tribune reported.

But some critics wrote letters to local newspapers accusing Ingersoll of shooting an albino. He filed a defamation lawsuit against seven area residents, which was thrown out of court.

In lawsuit depositions, two DNR officers testified the deer was an albino at some point but stained parts of its fur by rubbing against trees and urinating on its legs. That qualified the deer as a piebald and made it fair game for a hunter, DNR Sgt. Greg Drogowski said.

In a March letter, DNR Director Rebecca Humphries told Ingersoll the agency’s investigation “determined that it was a legally killed deer” and noted he had not been charged with a crime or ticketed.

Humphries said she would ask the commission to reverse the moratorium on killing albinos, saying it was “burdensome” for hunters to determine whether a particular deer meets the criteria.

“Moreover, there is no compelling scientific reason to protect these deer as albinism represents a mutation that is not desirable in a deer herd,” Humphries said.

The regulation also may be inadvertently protecting fallow, non-native deer released from game ranches, DNR spokeswoman Mary Detloff said.

Ingersoll told the Traverse City Record-Eagle he is appealing the dismissal of his lawsuit and wants the DNR officers charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and violating his constitutional rights. He said he had spent thousands of dollars trying to clear his name.

He said he believed the department was changing the regulation “to throw me a bone and hope that I’ll go away.”

Humphries said in her letter the DNR officers handled the case properly.