Rare ‘ghost of the forest’ deer spotted in Tennessee

SPRING HILL, Tenn. (WKRN) — A “ghost of the forest” as some call it, an albino deer, was spotted wandering a property in Spring Hill, Tennessee, twice this week.

“It honestly was such a surreal kind of almost like mystical experience,” Abbey Cabler explained.

Her husband first spotted the deer in the early morning hours of Tuesday, Oct. 24.

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“All of a sudden I hear my husband go, ‘Oh my gosh babe! Get out here now,’ like kind of freaking out, kind of panicky, and I run out there and he goes, ‘There is a white deer. I swear.’ And we look out the window and sure enough there he is: just kind of like right on the other side of our porch, closer to the tree line just eating away on the bushes,” she explained.

They were captivated by the snow-white deer, snapping a couple of photos and a short video before it ran off. His statuesque stature and muscles are a spectacle to watch. Cabler described it as being like a scene out of a Christmas movie.

“In the video, you can kind of see his red eyes for a second. You can see his pink ears, so it’s so crazy. He’s like true albino,” she said.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) said experts estimate only one in 20-30,000 deer become albinos.

“There [is] another version also called the ‘piebald’ where they have a little bit of brown spots on them still, so they aren’t fully albino and those are interesting, too.”

Years ago, an albino buck known as Ole Caney stole the hearts of residents in Chapel Hill.  A full-body mount of Ole Caney was given to the town on permanent loan from the TWRA in 2022 after he was hit and killed by a car.

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“I did some research and I guess our area has a really prevalent genetic lineage of albino deer, so there’s a hot spot in our area for the mutation and then there’s also a hot spot closer to Kentucky, but you see more of them around here which is interesting,” said Cabler.

The white deer was back on their property Wednesday morning.

“A lot of people are saying, and I agree with them, ‘Oh my gosh, this is good luck,’ or, ‘What a sign of anything good in life to have something like that happen to you,’ so I feel like I should buy a lottery ticket,” she laughed.

Cabler, who is a professional photographer, wishes she could have captured some photos with her camera as she has grown fond of the deer, affectionately naming him Casper.

“It’s close to Halloween and he was there and then he was gone, so it kind of felt like Casper the friendly albino deer,” she laughed.

Abbey posted on a Spring Hill Facebook group and discovered a neighbor had seen the same deer last winter. That neighbor told News 2 that the deer had a bone sticking out of his leg at the time, calling it a miracle that the albino is still around.

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“He had a hind leg injury. It looks like a fracture and they thought he was a goner with the injury, and sure enough, you can see in the photo if you look, you can see the healed-over injury on his back leg, which is so crazy. So he survived and he’s thriving and seemed really happy, too. He was wagging his tail, doing his thing,” said Cabler, who has since connected with the neighbor.

Tennessee is one of a few states where it is illegal to trap, hunt, or possess an albino deer. Killing an albino is a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by a $500 fine.

“I think it’s really important that we protect him, and now he’s so identifiable that we can kind of keep an eye on him and make sure he’s happy and healthy and is growing up and gets to live a long white albino deer life, and that nobody comes and tries to harm him and he’s all good,” Cabler said.

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