An 11-year-old hunter from Michigan is learning a tough lesson about ignorance and social media. Most young people and a lot of adults would do well to learn these lessons.
Gavin Dingman and his dad had been seeing a beautiful white deer in their hunting territory for the last few years. They and other hunters in the area had talked about trying to bag the animal.
Long story short, it was Gavin who took the trophy with a crossbow recently. The picture I've seen shows the smiling youngster posing with what looks like a ten-point, white buck. A nice trophy and a happy young hunter. But the picture is what stirred up the trouble. Television station WZZM 13 got hold of the photo and posted it to their Facebook page. Since then, the fuss has grown.
A lot of people have registered support for Gavin, but he has been widely condemned for the killing of the deer. I haven't heard of any death threats against the boy or his family, but several people have questioned his intelligence and morality and said that he should have let the deer live, because it is rare.
Rare, yes, but is that a reason to protect it? First, what caused the deer to be white? Albino or leucistic deer and other animals suffer (I use the term loosely) from a lack of normal skin pigmentation. While leucistic animals have less than normal pigmentation and may have light colored or blue eyes, true albinos have no pigment and their eyes are pink because of it. Though generally harmless, the lack of skin color can leave the animals susceptible to disease and skin sensitivity, such as increased risk of sunburn. Biologists say that white animals average shorter than normal lives in the wild due to this susceptibility, as well as the fact that they are more visible to predators.
On a side note, biologists also recognize the opposite end of the spectrum. Melanistic animals, like the well known black panther, have an abnormal excess of skin pigmentation. Other skin pigmentation abnormalities include yellow or red skin or fur coloration.
So should animals with odd skin and fur color be protected? While I personally like seeing odd or different looking animals, wildlife biologists generally agree that they should not be protected as it throws natural selection out of whack. By protecting them, it gives them an abnormal advantage in reproduction, allowing potentially weaker or less viable animals to make up a larger than natural percentage of the population, leaving the species more vulnerable to disease and epidemic.
I say, let the wildlife biologists decide if an animal needs special protection or not. If it's legal to shoot an animal, let legal hunters take it if they want.
In other words, leave the kid alone. And Gavin, there are a lot of good, smart people on social media. Unfortunately, the less some people know about a subject, they louder they proclaim their opinion.