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Forest Freak Show: Germany Rallies to Save Albino Deer

Months after Bruno the Bear was knocked off in Bavaria, Germany finds itself faced with another freak animal dilemma. An albino deer has appeared in the eastern German state of Saxony. Hunters smell blood, and basically everyone else wants to protect the animal.

Bruno the Bear left deep tracks in the German psyche. The media-savvy beast won the hearts of millions as he romped through the Bavarian country-side this summer.

Lovable he was, but violent, too. After striking fear into the hearts of farm animals everywhere, Bruno was finally rubbed out by a band of hunters sent to ensure the public welfare.

Despite his rampage, Bruno's lasting image is cuddly, warm and innocent. Guilt over his untimely death has left Germans gun-shy, searching for reconciliation with Mother Nature. Now, animal lovers and hunters are squaring off again over another awkward case of nature management: what to do with an albino deer.

Roaming the 900 hectare deer range at the foothills of the Erzgebirge Mountains in eastern Germany is a snow-white deer with pink eyes and skin. An albino deer -- one in 100,000 according to estimates by zoologists. Softened German hearts are bleeding. The animal should be protected, people say. "As a rarity and natural phenomenon, it should be allowed to live," a spokeswoman for the environment ministry of the state of Saxony said.

What she meant was, the cute little albino deer should be saved from death by rifle. Some hunters have already set their sights on the uncommon animal; a spectacle of nature to some is a freak of nature to others. Günter Giese, the president of the Saxony Hunting Federation, said: "The white deer is a mutation. It does not belong in the wild. It should be shot."

Whether hunters want to selflessly protect the genetic purity of the deer population or simply mount a rare stuffed albino deer head over their mantle is up for debate.

The deer, though, is getting a lot of support. The mayor of the town of Oberlungwitz located near where the deer has been sighted, wants the animal to be left alone as do environmentalists in the region. Stefanie Hertel -- a German folk singer -- and her trumpet-playing husband have planned a benefit concert for Dec. 7 to keep the deer from meeting the same fate as Bruno. The singer's father spoke out: "This beautiful animal should never be shot. It can't help it that it's an albino."

The German Wildlife Foundation insists the albino poses no real risk to the gene pool as long as enough "normal" colored deer remain in the population. The foundation has offered asylum to the white "Bambi" in a nature preserve in the northern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The animal would be free to roam the thousand hectare area, which is off limits to hunters. Would that Bruno had been so lucky.

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