Easton Cemetery bucks odds as rare piebald deer spotted on grounds
- Rare piebald deer have been spotted grazing in the Easton Cemetery
- The deer have a distinctive coat of white with brown patchy spots because of a genetic abnormality
- The cemetery superintendent fears the grounds will become a sightseeing destination
BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Performing earthly care for those no longer of this world literally brings Laurie Finch to her knees.
Finch, an Easton resident, is in her second year as a volunteer grave gardener at Easton Cemetery. She cares for old grave sites whose markers were accented by flower planters: roses, violets, marigolds and other bursts of nature’s colorful brilliance adding life to the resting place of those gone to the hereafter.
But on a recent early autumn day, it was a rare sighting of life that figuratively brought Finch to her knees.
The animal is called a piebald deer. And there it was, grazing at a burial site last week at the 174-year-old cemetery.
"I see him in the cemetery all the time."Easton Cemetery Superintendent Jeff Mutchler
Its distinctive asymmetrical and large brown patches of hair on a mostly white fur coat — think American paint horse — are the result of a rare genetic condition caused by the absence of pigmentation in the skin.
Because of the condition, the deer can be referred to as bald or mixed up.
A piebald deer is not just unusual looking, but exceedingly rare to spot. According to the State Game Commission website, piebald deer are reported at rates well under 1% of the total deer population.
Despite the rare occurrence of the piebald deer, it is not an endangered species.
“It’s a beautiful looking deer, the kind you rarely see,” said Finch, who posted a photo of the deer on the Facebook page, Everything EASTON. “But I’ve seen this one often at the cemetery.”
As Finch was tending to grave planters on Thursday evening, she saw the piebald deer again.
Only this time, with a friend.
“There was a larger piebald deer with six points with the smaller one,” said Finch, who took photos and video of the pair. “The larger deer has piebald markings on its lower side, just not as pronounced as the younger deer.
“We also know the piebald deer has stirred up a lot of interest with hunters. We’ve had to post 'No Hunting' signs even though there’s an ordinance against discharging a weapon in the city limits. We want to remind people to be respectful of the cemetery.”Easton Cemetery Superintendent Jeff Mutchler
"The two of them were going at each other, as if the larger one was teaching the smaller one how to fight or defend itself.”
Easton Cemetery Superintendent Jeff Mutchler also has spotted the younger piebald deer.
“I see him in the cemetery all the time,” he said. “He lives here. We also have about 15 deer, not piebalds, show up at any one time.”
Mutchler is concerned the public will learn about the piebald deer and begin coming to the cemetery to find him. What he would like to prevent is the cemetery turning into a sightseeing venue.
“We also know the piebald deer has stirred up a lot of interest with hunters,” Mutchler said. “We’ve had to post 'No Hunting' signs even though there’s an ordinance against discharging a weapon in the city limits.
“We want to remind people to be respectful of the cemetery.”