Reminder Assistant Editor
WILBRAHAM For years, residents of Wilbraham and Hampden have seen the stuff of legends right outside of their windows, usually munching on their lawns.
An elusive family of white deer, who have lived in local forests for several years, is spotted here and there, standing out dramatically among the brown trunks of trees.
"We see them in the woods behind us at least once a week, just patrolling the area," said Bruce Tingle of Stonegate Circle in Wilbraham. "Just last Monday morning, one was standing twenty feet from Stony Hill Road."
The type of deer that Tingle spotted has varying degrees of whiteness, from nearly pure to just having large patches of white.
Tingle's brother, a 55-year deer hunter of Maryland, said that in all of his international hunting travels, he has never seen anything like that.
"That made me think that this was pretty rare," Tingle said about his brother's comment.
Contrary to popular belief, white deer are not that rare in Massachusetts, explained Bill A. Woytek, Deer Project Leader for the state department of wildlife. Although, he was unaware of any in these towns.
"One or two percent of the deer population will have some form of color morphing that ranges from white patches to the extremely rare albino who have pink hooves, eyes and ears," Woytek said.
Wilbraham's ivory-furred residents are not true albinos but are classified rather as "piebald deer." Woytek said this natural discoloration is just the nature of genetic mapping. White deer may occur anytime, in any place, whether or not there are any others around.
"Harvesting white deer really doesn't effect the chance of them being here in the future,"said Dave Fuller of the Connecticut Valley Wildlife district office in Belchertown.
To the delight of some hunters, it is perfectly legal to shoot white deer. But beware old folk lore states that any hunter who harvests a white deer will never harvest a deer again.
"Every year we see piebald deer coming through our check stations," Woytek said.
Richard Kimball, co-founder of R & R Sports Shop, a deer tagging station in Belchertown, said that he has only seen one true albino deer in his lifetime. A man living near Route 202 had killed an albino buck sometime in the 1940s. Kimball recalled stopping, along with several other hunters, to view the rarity.
Piebald deer, however, have been tagged at the Belchertown sports shop within the past several years.