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A Rare Herd Of Ghost White Deer Will Be Nurtured Under A New Land Deal

The dwindling herd has been living in relative seclusion on a World War II-era military depot for decades.

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The ghostly deer at the former Seneca Army Depot in the Finger Lakes aren't albino. Instead, they are a natural variation of the normally brown-colored white-tailed deer, which has been interbreeding a lack of pigmentation for decades on the World War II-era site.

Deer born without coloring typically don't last long in the wild since they stand out as prey. But Army restrictions and a 24-mile fence that encloses the depot allowed the white deer herd to multiply in relative seclusion and safety.

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The fate of the white deer became the focus of wildlife advocates after the 7,000-acre site was purchased by a private business.

But the new landlord, Seneca Iron Works owner Earl Martin, has been working with a nonprofit group to improve the site for the white deer.

Now, roughly 1,500 acres will be parceled off for ecotourism and a wildlife preserve, Martin told the Associated Press.

Years ago, white deer made up about 200 of the estimated 800 deer within the depot's fence, according to the nonprofit group Seneca White Deer. However, their numbers have since fallen to under 80.

Stakeholders have already started planting soybean to improve the habitat and reverse the falling deer numbers.

"One of the primary things we need to do is improve habitat and food availability to help bring the deer back up to the numbers there were before," Dennis Money, who heads Seneca White Deer, told the AP. "We need to put in better quality foods, like clover, turnips, soybeans and corn."

Jason Wells is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Jason Wells at jason.wells@buzzfeed.com.

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