Deer leucistic?
Inside the Outdoors, February 3,
2017

As usual, before getting to day’s column, I want to draw the public’s attention to the fact that we recently had a new Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife conservation officer (WCO) assigned to our area.

Known to many in the Ligonier area, Bill Brehun grew up in the Ligonier area, attending Ligonier Valley High School (LVHS). As a senior, he often gave thought just what he would like to do when he graduated. Suggesting to his mother maybe he could make woodworking his profession. She suggested, “Why don’t you see if you can find something that has more of a future.

One day after giving a senior presentation, it occurred to him that he like to seek out a field that dealt with education, law enforcement and the outdoors. “The Game Commission has all of these,” he said.

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After graduating from LVHS in 2009, he attended Penn State University at Dubois where he studied wildlife technology receiving an associate degree in that field in 2011.

Aspiring to becoming a WCO, he then enrolled at Ross Leffler School of Conservation that is a PGC academy. Two years later, he accomplished his goal attaining his goal.

Brehun then was assigned to northern Blair County that is centered in the Altoona area. After spending three and one-half years there, he was transferred to the Southwest region of the PGC in Bolivar where he has been fulfilling his duties ever since his arrival.

“I’ve been assigned to the Northeastern District which includes Ligonier, Unity Township, Derry, Fairfield Township and St. Clair Township (located in the New Florence area),” he stated.

With he and his wife move moving back to this area, he proclaimed, “I finally got to come home!”

When I did my thorough investigation on the duck in question at St. Vincent Lake (Latrobe), little did I come to grips with a subject that tickled my fancy so much that I ended up doing a research project on it. The subject would be ‘Leucism.’

I only learned of the term ‘leucistic’ by talking to a naturalist at Powdermill Nature Reserve. I decided to explore the usages of the word that opened up a new can of worms, as the saying goes.

At first we thought the subject that I identified as a ‘UFO,’ an unidentified flying object, was some sort of duck, but we couldn’t put our fingers on just exactly what species it could be. When the expert announced that the bird may be ‘leucistic,’ that surely threw me for a loop. So I had to go website hopping until I felt educated enough to write a column on it. After all, it was too big an ordeal not to share with you readers.

I found out from www.mnn.com “Leucism is often mistaken for albinism. It is a partial loss of pigmentation, which can make the animal have white or patchily colored skin, hair, feathers and so on, but the pigment cells in the eyes are not affected by the condition,” it said.

On the opposite end of the coin, “Albinism is a condition in which there is an absence of melanin, which gives color to the skin, feathers, hair and eyes. Vertebrates are not only white in color but they also have very pale eyes, often pink or red in color as the blood vessels show through.”

If one can get close enough to the creature, the eyes will be the deciding factor.

According to u.osu.edu, “Albinism is inherited. However, not all offspring from an albino parent will be albinistic."


- Paul J. Volkmann
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