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Tours of rare white deer herd at former weapons depot to end

December 17, 2019 GMT
FILE - In this Feb. 27, 2007 file photo, a white white-tailed deer looks up at the former Seneca Army Depot, where there is a herd of rare white white-tailed deer, in Romulus, N.Y. Tours of a rare white deer herd at the former Cold War weapons depot are slated to end because of financial troubles. (AP Photo/David Duprey, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 27, 2007 file photo, a white white-tailed deer looks up at the former Seneca Army Depot, where there is a herd of rare white white-tailed deer, in Romulus, N.Y. Tours of a rare white deer herd at the former Cold War weapons depot are slated to end because of financial troubles. (AP Photo/David Duprey, File)

ROMULUS, N.Y. (AP) — Tours of a rare white deer herd on a wildlife sanctuary at a former Cold War weapons depot are slated to end soon because of financial troubles, but the property owner said he’ll continue protection of the herd and look for ways to resume public access.

The board of directors of the nonprofit Seneca White Deer, Inc., voted to end tours at the former Seneca Army Depot in upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region because donations weren’t meeting expenses, said the organization’s president, Dennis Money. He said more than 15,000 people have taken tours since they started two years ago, but operations will end on Dec. 29.

Earl Martin, who is redeveloping the former military facility, told the Canandaigua Daily Messenger on Monday that he’ll continue protection and management of the deer herd that roam 3,000 fenced acres set aside as a wildlife sanctuary. He said he’ll evaluate the closing tourism operation with the objective of providing tours again in the future with a different management team.

The sanctuary 57 miles (92 kilometers) southwest of Rochester is home to the world’s largest herd of white deer. They’re not albinos, but are leucistic—a natural genetic variation of native white-tail deer that lacks dark fur pigment. In the wild, such deer usually succumb quickly to predators and hunters because they’re so visible. But the facility’s 6-foot-tall chain-link perimeter fence isolates them and allows them to multiply with a high level of inbreeding.

The depot was the U.S. Army’s main East Coast munitions storage facility for six decades until it was decommissioned in 2000. It’s home to about 75 white deer. Tours featured not only the deer, but the rich military history and hundreds of igloo-shaped concrete weapons bunkers.