Deer are a common sight in Moab, but a melanistic deer – one that is entirely black due to an overproduction of the pigment melanin – is quite rare, even more rare than all-white or piebald (white-spotted) deer, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR). But for the past several years, Moab residents and visitors have had the pleasure of observing such an unusual animal. The sightings have been a delight for many Moab residents and so many have mourned the recent passing of the melanistic buck. A recent survey on the Facebook page Moab’s Melanistic Deer found “Coal” to be the most commonly preferred name. Other name contenders included “Cole” and “Smoke.”
Sherri and Clint Costanza formed the Facebook page after learning of Coal’s passing. Clint said he recently “heard it through the grapevine” that Coal had been found deceased and called Adam Wallerstein with the DWR, who confirmed that this was true. Thr DWR is working to determine the cause of death.
In 2016, when a very young Coal became separated from his mother by a fence at the ball fields, Clint herded the distressed fawn back to his mother and caught the interaction on film. The clip was shared on social media by KUTV 2News and the DWR, and viewed many thousands of times.
Coordinating with Wallerstein, the Costanzas formed a plan to have Coal mounted by Darryl’s Taxidermy in Grand Junction.
“He’s an artist,” Clint said of the taxidermist, Darryl Powell, adding that Powell had generously agreed to expedite the mounting process.
Community members donated funds for the mount, and remembered Coal fondly on the Facebook page.
“I’m so sad that he’s gone,” LaVerta Ward commented. “Everybody everywhere loved him.”
Clint said they are in the process of securing a permanent location for a public display of the mount. Once it is confirmed where the mount could potentially be housed, there will be a survey on the Moab’s Melanistic Deer Facebook page to gauge the community’s location preference.
Costanza said that his experience as a hunter increases his appreciation of the melanistic deer.
“As a hunter, I’ve laid eyes on many thousands of deer, and never anything like Coal, for sure,” he said.“He was truly unique.”