PA’s first, and maybe only, piebald elk

Posted on: March 10, 2016 | Bob Frye | Comments

Blog--Piebald elkJennifer Helman photo
How’s this for a one-of-a-kind Pennsylvania elk?

Pennsylvania is well known for producing some of the largest elk to be found anywhere.

Now it’s also apparently produced one of the most unusual.

According to a story from the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, a woman named Jennifer Helman was out in the elk range, near Benezette, looking at and photographing elk, when she spotted one with white markings on its face. She got an image and posted it to Instagram. Department officials found out about it there when someone asked what could have caused the odd coloration.

It turns out, the cow – which looks as if it has a dusting of snow on its face – is the first documented piebald elk in the state.

According to a “From the Field” report from Pennsylvania Game Commission biologist Jeanine Fleegle, piebald coloration occurs when an animal develops partial leucism, a condition characterized by a shortage of all types of skin pigment. Piebald whitetails account for well under 1 percent of the deer population, she added.

The conditions appears to be even rarer in elk, at least here.

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources officials reached out to the Game Commission about the elk Helman spotted. They say they were told no one’s ever reported seeing a piebald one in this state before.

“This rare beauty was discovered thanks to one of our curious wildlife watchers and social media,” reads a Department note on the unusual animal.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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