Super rare piebald elk sighting in Montana

It almost looks like an elk is masquerading as a white Christmas reindeer.

But really it’s a piebald cow elk spotted during an aerial survey in southwestern Montana this month. Piebald is a genetic trait which causes white patches in an animal.

“During a big game classification flight this week, Montrose area wildlife biologist Evan Phillips got a glimpse of a rare piebald cow elk!” Colorado Parks and Wildlife said in a recent post on X

“The piebald trait in elk occurs in about 1 out of every 100,000 animals,” according to the state’s parks service.

The elk really stands out from the crowd. Photo: CPWSW/X

Helicopters are flown at low altitudes to conduct wildlife surveys.

“Early winter months are a crucial time for wildlife research projects and population surveys for Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists,” the park service said.

That’s how this unique creature was first noticed.

Experts call the phenomenon as 1 in 100,000 sighting. Photo: CPWSW/X

“The data we collect from these efforts is critical to help us proactively manage elk populations in the state,” CPW Wildlife Researcher Nathaniel Rayl, said in a statement.

“In general, it is beneficial to conduct capture work in winter because the lower temperatures and snowfall provide better conditions for this work,” he added. “Elk, moose, deer and pronghorn prefer cooler temperatures and are actually less stressed than if we were to capture in the summer when they may overheat and die. The deeper snow cushions the animal and helps prevent injuries, and they don’t run as far, making capture easier and quicker. Conducting this work in the winter also allows us to gather critical information about pregnancy and body condition.”

And as it turns out, stumble on unusual looking critters.

Like this odd-looking elk walking with its herd through the rugged wilderness of the state.

Classification flights allow CPW to accurately estimate populations, recruit young animals into the population and sex ratios — and sometimes get a bird’s eye view of rare animals. Photo: CPWSW/X

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