A trio of hunters in Nova Scotia managed to enrage a good portion of the region’s indigenous population recently by shooting a rare white bull moose.
The killing of the white moose, considered to be a “spirit animal” by the Mi’kmaq communities that inhabit Atlantic Canada, was met with disbelief, but the hunters claim they were unaware of its significance.
The animal was shot last week in Belle Cote, Nova Scotia, part of Cape Breton Island, and brought to Hnatiuk’s Hunting & Fishing Ltd. in the town of Lantz, which snapped a photo of the carcass and posted it on its Facebook page, according to the Cape Breton Post.
The page received 10,000 hits within three days as news of the animal’s death went viral, with online postings berating the hunters as “idiots” and “ignorant” with “no respect or common sense.”
Clifford Paul, moose management coordinator with the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources, said the white moose is not something they would not harvest.
“We would just observe and let it go on its merry way,” he said.
The Mi’kmaq put a great deal of stock in the white moose as a spirit animal.
“It could be one of our ancestors,” Mi’kmaq elder and traditional hunter Danny Paul told the Post. We are to follow them and they will lead us to the herd, or lead us to medicines, or other teachings that we as people need.”
It is believed that the white moose in question was leucistic rather than albino. Leucism is a condition characterized by reduced pigmentation and is caused by a recessive allele. Unlike albinism, it is caused by a reduction in all types of skin pigment, not just melanin.
While white moose are considered sacred to the Mi’kmaq, it is not illegal to hunt them in Nova Scotia.
This particular animal was known to have inhabited the Nova Scotia highlands for several years and had been spotted often by locals.
In response to the killing, the chief of the Millbrook First Nation, Bob Gloade, has offered to perform a special ceremony to prevent bad luck and harm to the hunters who shot the animal.
“We are aware of the significance of the white moose to the Mi’kmaq and think that hunter education and awareness is key, so we are glad to hear that a positive discussion has taken place between the harvester and the Mi’kmaq,” said Bruce Nunn, spokesman for the province’s Department of Natural Resources.
Jim Hnatiuk, the owner of the taxidermy shop where the white moose after it was shot, told Agence France-Presse that he had spoken with the hunters and had they known the significance of the moose they wouldn’t have shot it.
“Some people believe that shooting a white moose is bad luck, but the hunters were totally unaware of its significance,” he said. “Everyone is a lot more knowledgeable now, and the hunters want to make amends and fix this as much as they can.”
The hunters, whose names have not been disclosed, have apologized to the local Mi’kmaq tribe and agreed to hand over the hide for a ceremony to honor the animal and dispel a curse.
The ceremony is planned for next week and could last several days. The hunters meanwhile will keep the bull moose’s head as a trophy.
(Top: A white bull moose seen recently in Sweden. Photo credit: UteFoto.)