KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — Cotton, an 11-year-old deer with a rare genetic trait, died at Bays Mountain Park overnight on Sunday.
Bays Mountain leaders said in a news release that Cotton lived a full life at the park after arriving as an 8-month-old deer in 2012. She had been confiscated from a family that illegally removed her from the wild at a very young age.
Her unique coat pattern set her apart from other deer. Cotton was born piebald, which gave her a white and brown pattern. Park leaders said the rare genetic difference did not affect the quality of her life but instead made her “an exceptional ambassador for her species.”
“She was a special deer, not only to park staff but to the community,” said Megan Krager, manager of Bays Mountain Park. “She had a lot of spunk and pep, and she made a lot of people smile. She liked playing chase. Staff would run along the fence and she would follow, sometimes kicking up her back legs in excitement. Park staff are deeply saddened by this loss.”
Cotton spent nearly her entire life with people and was always friendly and playful with staff, who nicknamed her “Squirt” after learning the deer enjoyed water hose games. The play did not stop with the caretakers; Cotton also enjoyed racing visitors up and down the fence line.
“She was a favorite for all of us here at the park,” said Ranger Rhonda Goins. “When she first came, she loved Honey Nut Cheerios. She didn’t realize she was a deer. She thought she was a dog because that’s how she was raised. She came to us with a pink dog collar. We will all miss her very much.”