A rare herd of ghostly white deer that multiplied at a World War II weapons depot under the protection of the U.S. Army is now being nurtured by the site’s new owner.
Seneca Iron Works owner Earl Martin has planted 15 acres of soybeans to improve the diet of the deer roaming the former Seneca Army Depot in the Finger Lakes, and is working with a nonprofit group to develop about 1,500 acres of the 7,000-acre site as a wildlife preserve and ecotourism park.
Martin’s winning $900,000 bid, announced last month, includes plans to create 200 jobs, expand his iron works business, establish about 20 Amish homesteads and renovate a short-line railroad. Preserving the white deer was a priority of wildlife groups when the depot was put up for sale.
The deer aren’t albinos, but are a natural mutation of common white-tailed deer. In the wild, white deer have short lifespans, because they are easy targets for predators and hunters. But the 24-mile fence that encloses the depot and the Army’s protective policies allowed the white deer to multiply in peace among more than 500 concrete munitions storage bunkers.