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See Unique White Deer at the Deer Haven Park

posted by Teresa Farrell at 2023-06-10 21:43:00

This summer, explore a unique Finger Lakes attraction that blends nature and history with a visit to the former Seneca Army Depot, now known as Deer Haven Park, to take a look at the rare and unique Seneca White Deer.

The population of white deer here, first discovered at the depot in 1949, are a rare but genetically natural variation of the standard white-tailed deer, which usually have brown coloring. The Seneca White Deer may look albino, but they’re actually leucistic, meaning that though their fur is all white, they do have the brown eyes standard for their species.

Though some of the depot’s deer population is made up of brown-furred white-tailed deer, the recessive gene that causes the white pigmentation has been able to thrive in the population thanks to management of the deer within the depot area. If they were unprotected in nature, white deer would make an easy target for predators and hunters alike. But within the confines of the depot, hunting the white deer is not allowed, and with limited predators to contend with, they have flourished over the last 60-plus years. In fact, today, the 3,000-acre park is home to the world’s largest known herd of white deer, right in Upstate New York.

The depot itself has a long and storied history; once home to storage areas for munitions, explosives, and even atomic weapons, it supplied U.S. troops throughout World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the first Desert Storm war in the early 1990s, after which it was relieved of its duty as a weapons base.

The remnants of that era still exist, and make for a large part of the fascinating history covered on the tour; on board the bus, visitors explore military artifacts at the heart of the storage area, with 519 earth-covered bunkers once used to store munitions, and can even get out and explore some of the still-standing structures. The history of the depot, however, stretches back even further; it was once a Native American village, then was settled by Revolutionary War soldiers, and became home to a variety of family farms before being turned over to the U.S. government to build the army depot. Today, it’s home to remnants of farms and even a cemetery where Revolutionary War soldiers were laid to rest.

In 2016, the depot was purchased by a private owner, who established Deer Haven Park and built a visitor’s center with a gift shop and started regular tours in 2017. In 2020, the park introduced an audio tour, so visitors could drive through the while hearing narration over their radios; this has become a popular option for many. Bus tours are still an option, and give the chance to step out and step inside a munition storage igloo, walk through a personnel bomb shelter, see the top security measure at the entrance of the Q-area where nuclear weapons were stored, and meander down a 90-yard path to see an active beaver dam. There are private tour options available as well, and special events pop up throughout the year.

The park is open Thursdays through Saturdays, April through October, with private tours available year-round, even in the off season (staff and weather permitting). For full information, hours, admission prices, online booking and an up-to-date events calendar, visit Deer Haven Park’s website or follow Deer Haven Park, LLC on Facebook.

Buck photo credit Deer Haven Park
Fawn photo credit Deer Haven Park
Brown and white deer photo credit Deer Haven Park
Memorial photo credit Deer Haven Park

Bus tour photo credit photo credit Deer Haven Park

posted at: 2023-06-10 21:43:00, last updated: 2023-06-13 06:25:43

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