Walkers on Scotland’s west coast may think their eyes are deceiving them if they spot a ghostly figure in the wilds.
But there’s no need to take a little more water in their whisky. The pale figure roaming the Highlands is no apparition, but a rare white stag. Staff from the John Muir Trust spotted the creature at a secret location and snapped pictures of the deer.
The white stag, caught on camera by Fran Lockhart
The white version of a red deer is extremely scarce. Its colouring is not, as many believe, the result of albinism, but a condition called leucism, a genetic quirk which leads to a reduction of pigment in the skin and hair. Unlike albinos, leucistic animals have normally coloured eyes.
They have, for centuries, been associated with mythology and mystery. Celtic tribes viewed white deer as messengers from the other world. Scottish legend has it that King David I was charged by a white stag while hunting. As he grasped the beast’s antlers they turned into a white cross, and he was inspired to build a shrine at the site, Holyrood.
The stag’s location is not being revealed; last October, poachers in the West Country killed the only other recorded white stag in Britain. The discovery of the headless corpse of the animal suggested it had been killed for a trophy.
Fran Lockhart, partnership manager for the John Muir Trust, managed to snap pictures and take video footage of the stag, believed to be about seven years old. She said: “It was amazing to crawl up so close to such a magnificent looking animal. He looked almost ghost-like next to the group of young red stags that he was mixing with.
“I am thrilled to know that there is a white stag roaming free out there in the Scottish Highlands and that I was privileged enough to be able to spend an hour observing him.
“We will be watching this animal with interest, particularly as he will be reaching his full potential in the next couple of years.”
The John Muir Trust, named after the Dunbar-born national park pioneer, owns land on Quinag, Schiehallion, the Red Cuillin on Sky, part of Ben Nevis and in Sandwood Bay. Its aim is to conserve the wild lands of Scotland and is currently engaged in opposing the planned Beauly to Denny power line.