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Rare 'Dalmatian' deer is real – here's her story

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Footage of a strangely dappled deer has racked up millions of views on social media this week. (We haven't seen a coat this spectacular since "strawberry" leopards turned up in South Africa!) And while some commenters have questioned the authenticity of the viral clip, we can tell you this video is the real deal, reported Earth Touch News.

The star of the clip is a female white-tailed deer called "Boo", one of many taken in this year by the Fuzzy Fawn Wildlife Rescue in New York. Boo's "Dalmation chic" colouration is the result of leucism, a genetic condition that results in partial loss of the pigment melanin. The mutation is rare, but because affected animals possess an aesthetic "wow" factor, they tend to pop up in our news feeds relatively frequently.

Leucistic creatures like Boo – sometimes also referred to as "pied" or "piebald" – are different to true albino animals, which lack melanin entirely throughout their bodies, leaving them stark white and with characteristic red or pink eyes. Leucism, on the other hand, doesn't cause total pigment loss, and the animals' unaffected eyes are a clue to the nature of their genetic condition.

The mutation also results in a wide variety of patterns. Leucistic nurse sharks, for example, tend to be heavily spotted. Deer, on the other hand, show much greater variation: some are mostly white, and many sport cow-print attire.

It's estimated that fewer than two percent of white-tailed deer are leucistic, so Boo's appearance came as a surprise to her keeper, Leondra "Fuzzy" Scherer, a volunteer wildlife rehabilitator who specialises in white-tailed deer rescue and release.

The mottled orphan arrived at Fuzzy Fawn back in July after her mother was hit by a car. At just one week old, the youngster would not have survived on her own. What's more, her hind legs were heavily bowed – an abnormality commonly encountered in leucistic deer. (Their eye-catching colouration can also make animals like Boo more vulnerable to predators.)

"Many piebald deer have other conditions," Scherer wrote on Instagram. "[These include] bowing of the nose, short legs, bowed legs, arching of the back, short lower jaw, and internal issues."


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