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Courtesy photos/Henry Evans

Mystical visitor

Profile image for By Christian McPhate
By Christian McPhate

To some people, he’s known as the “Christmas Unicorn,” “Miracle Stag” and “Prime Shooting.”

With its solid white coat and full brown rack, the buck is a rare creature to behold in Denton County.

But on Tuesday, Henry Evans, 76, spotted the white fallow buck trotting slowly down Southridge Drive in Denton.

“At first I thought it was a moose,” Evans said.

He said he has seen deer in Colorado, Texas and Wyoming, but he hadn’t seen one like this. So he followed the white buck as it slowly trotted down the road and through an apartment complex near Londonderry Lane before disappearing down Teasley Lane.

The white buck surprised not only Evans but also several carpenters who were working at the apartments. But the deer ignored their gawking and continued on his journey through south-central Denton.

Denton County Game Warden Daron Blackerby of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said he received a call about the white fallow buck hanging around Teasley Lane, but he couldn’t do much about it because his office doesn’t have the equipment to net a full-grown deer.

The fallow deer are native to the Mediterranean countries of Europe and North Africa and are the most widely kept of the world’s deer, according to The Mammals of Texas — Online Edition. The fallow deer have been introduced to 93 Texas counties, primarily in the Edwards Plateau region in the central part of the state. This species of deer has four varieties of colors, including white.

Blackerby recalled a few exotic deer escaping from a ranch just south of Denton a couple of years ago, and he said he believed a few of them still hang around the Bartonville/Argyle area.

“It’s not a danger to anyone,” he said.

Bartonville police confirmed several white fallow deer had been seen around former Congressman Dick Armey’s place.

Bartonville resident Pattie Carter said she used to see white fallow deer charging down the road, running across her driveway and grazing in Armey’s pasture.

“But I heard that a couple of them were hit by a car,” she said.

The ‘Miracle Stag’

This isn’t the first time someone has spotted a white fallow buck trotting through Denton.

In October 2014, several residents reported seeing a one-horned white fallow buck hanging around near the area of East Side Denton and Oak St. Drafthouse, while another resident claimed a friend had spotted it near Eagle Drive.

John Williams, owner of Oak St. Drafthouse and co-owner of East Side, wrote in a Facebook post that he had been stopped by Denton police who were searching for “a white reindeer with only one antler.”

Officer Ryan Grelle, a spokesman for Denton police, said the department had received reports about a one-horned white buck near the Square, but officers never found him.

Someone finally posted a picture of a white buck on Facebook, and the commenter asked, “Christmas Unicorn?”

Similar to the mythical unicorn, which is often depicted as white, no other animal has been held to be more sacred than animals with a white coat. Legends of the white stag, the white sow and the white buffalo have been passed from generation to generation, making appearances in Arthurian legends and other mythological tales.

For example, the Magyars, an ancient aggressive Hungarian warrior society, believed the white “Miracle Stag” allowed them to justify warfare and conquer lands, which led to their arrival in Hungary in the year 896, according to A Concise History of Hungary by Miklós Molnár and translated by Anna Magyar.

As people in Eastern Europe began to convert to Christianity, legends of the Miracle Stag began to circulate.

This time, it featured burning candles on the tips of its antlers, and some people claimed to have seen the White Stag with golden antlers, according to In Quest of the ‘Miracle Stag’: The Poetry of Hungary by Adam Makkai.

Makkai argued the White Stag had now become a symbol for the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, an amalgamation of ancient Oriental shamanism with the Christianity of Europe.

An old Scottish legend tells the tale of David I, king of Scotland, who wrestled with a white stag on the Feast Day of the Holy Rood.

The king grasped the white stag’s antlers as it charged forward, and called on God to save him. To his surprise, the antlers turned into a large cross as the white stag vanished.

In American Indian mythology, a white stag is also known as a “Ghost Deer” or the “Great White Deer.” A legend from the Lenape tribe of the east coast claims that white deer being spotted together is a sign that the “Dawnland” people will soon arrive and lead the world with their wisdom.

Regardless of the area of the myth, most fable weavers agree that killing one of these white animals is considered a violation of the natural order.

Exotics in Texas

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department conducted a statewide survey of landowners in the late 1980s and estimated that around 164,000 animals of 67 exotic species were found in 137 counties.

Exotic animals were first introduced onto Texas ranches in 1930 when nilgai antelope appeared on the King Ranch in South Texas, according to the department.

Several Texas ranches offer exotic animal hunting for people who can’t afford a trip to Africa. Located in Bedias, Circle E Ranch offers “quality exotic game hunts with personal service,” according to its website.

Circle E Ranch’s website showcases a photo of a hunter lifting up the antlers of a dead white buck.

Denton County Game Warden Logan Griffin of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said about 14,000 fallow deer are currently grazing in Texas, but they normally stay around the Hill Country in Central Texas. The fallow deer are treated like livestock and not regulated, he said.

Griffin said he believes people will be seeing more unusual animals as suburban development expands throughout Denton County.

“It doesn’t breathe fire, and it’s not diseased,” he said. “It’s just something pretty to look at.”

CHRISTIAN McPHATE can be reached at 940-566-6878 and on Twitter at @writerontheedge.