MARSHFIELD, WI (OnFocus) – In a statement today, Wildwood Zoo announced the passing of its White-tail deer, Indy.
The statement is as follows: Wildwood Zoo regrets to announce the passing of its White-tail deer, Indy. Indy was one of the most noticeable deer in the herd due to her all white fur. She was humanely euthanized today due to her deteriorating body condition and perceived declining quality of life.
Indy’s all-white coat and the fact that deer do not have melanin in their skin predisposed her to sun burns. Repeated burns can cause hair loss, melanoma and decreased fitness. Herd dynamics (the way individuals within the group interact with each other) in species like whitetail deer are variable due to individual “personalities”, sex ratios, seasonal changes and more.
Often times herd animals will “pick on” the weakest animal in the group as a method of social hierarchy. Unfortunately for Indy, the dynamic in the Wildwood Zoo herd was sometimes aggressive toward her and resulted in occasional physical harm.
Several modifications were made to the deer pasture over the last 18 months to try to reduce the negative interactions between Indy and her aggressors including opening up an additional pasture space as well as eliminating “dead-ends” within the pasture corridors to prevent Indy from becoming trapped. More cover for shade to reduce sun exposure was also made available. Given their gregarious (or group dwelling) nature, Indy chose to spend time with the other deer rather than utilizing other areas within the exhibit.
Alternatives to living with the Zoo’s other deer were considered but ultimately rejected. Several of the ideas considered were: moving her into her own exhibit- this was rejected due to her strong desire and natural instinct to be with or around other deer, moving her into an exhibit with another species- intra (within) species dynamics can be tricky enough to manage it was deemed equally or even more dangerous to put her with another species.
Sending her to a different zoo or sanctuary- State rules regarding Chronic Wasting Disease and Tuberculosis transmission prohibit the Zoo from transporting live deer off site.
Indy will be sorely missed by staff and visitors alike.
At this time there is no plan to add another white deer to the zoo’s herd. White deer are a naturally occurring variant and account for an estimated 1% of the total deer population. Often times white deer are incorrectly referred to as “albino”. While albinism does occur in deer, it is exceedingly rare and true albinos often don’t live very long due to poor eyesight resulting from their albinism. Indy and the vast majority of other white deer observed in the wild are leucistic, meaning she lacked pigment over much of her body but did have pigment in her eyes, hooves and nose.
Parks and Recreation staff appreciates your continued support of Wildwood Park and Zoo.
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