Great Plains Natural Science Society


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The Prairie Naturalist 40(3/4): SeptemberlDecember 2008, pp 125-128


Melanistic color morphs of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are differentiated from other recognized color morphs by having uniform black hairs on the dorsal surface with subdued black hairs on the ventral surface, dark face and ears, a distinctive mid-dorsal stripe extending from the head to the apex of the tail, and a tail with black dorsally and white ventrally (Baccus and Posey 1999). Melanism results from the overproduction of the skin pigment melanin and is considered rare in white-tailed deer populations (Severinghaus and Cheatum 1956, Sauer 1984, Smith et al. 1984). Semi-melanistic deer have the same dark pelage colors as melanistic morphs, but patterns of white hairs are the same as those of normal color morphs (Baccus and Posey 1999). No literature records of melanism in white-tailed deer existed prior to 1929 (Seton 1929). Melanism has since been documented in north-central and southern Wisconsin (Anonymous 1948, Wozencraft 1979), South Carolina (Rue 1978), Michigan (Rue 1978), Texas (Smith et al. 1984, Baccus and Posey 1999), and Pennsylvania (D'Angelo and Baccus 2007). Semi-melanistic deer have been documented in New York (Townsend and Smith 1933), Idaho (Severinghaus and Cheatum 1956), and Texas (Bac(}us and Posey 1999). Herein, we report records for two semi-melanistic adult deer in northwestern Wisconsin.