Last week the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) posted a picture of two rare white moose to its Facebook page. Ron Terry, who sent in the photo, believes it was taken near Mine Center, Ontario. The photo has actually been circulating through the internet for several years and other accounts place it in Michigan or Wisconsin. While it is not known if the moose are true albinos or simply have a white coat, it was still a once-in-a-lifetime sighting.
“The odds of seeing an albino moose are astronomical near Mine Center, Ontario,” Ron Terry wrote to the RMEF. “To see two of them together is nearly impossible. We wanted to share these photos with as many people as possible because you will probably never have a chance to see this rare sight again. This is a really special treat, so enjoy the shots of a lifetime!”
White moose are more than just rare in Canada, they are sacred animals according to some First Nation customs. The Mi’kmaq people of Nova Scotia consider the animals especially important. At one time moose provided a main source of meat for the Mi’kmaq, who placed great cultural significance on the hunt. A white moose was seen as a spiritual animal and traditionally off-limits to hunters. When a group of visiting hunters took a large albino bull in Nova Scotia last year, the hunters brought the hide back to the local Mi’kmaq to take part in a special ceremony.
“We see an albino moose once in a while but it is not a common sight,” RMEF Director of Science Planning Tom Toman wrote OutdoorHub in an email. “I worked for Wyoming Game and Fish for 25 years before coming to the RMEF, and the last 20 years were in Jackson Hole where some of the largest moose herds are found in the state. I only saw one white cow moose [in that time].”
Other ungulates, especially deer, are sometimes seen in both white and albino varieties. Even healthy creatures with this condition rarely survive into adulthood, as their white color often makes them easy targets for predators.
Updated on 5-14-2014 for accuracy.
Images courtesy Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation