The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is investigating the death of a white moose east of Foleyet, Ont. A member of the public contacted the MNRF during the week of October 26 after finding the head of the white moose near the area.
“It is illegal to shoot and harvest white moose in wildlife management units 30 and 31,” South Porcupine Crime Stoppers said in a news release, referring to the areas northwest and southwest of Timmins, Ont.
White moose are not a new occurrence in the Foleyet area. They were first documented in Ontario by Jane Armstrong in October 1990 near Groundhog Lake. They’ve since been spotted as in other countries like Sweden.
Despite their ghostly appearance, these moose aren’t albino. A recessive gene trait called the Armstrong White Gene Strain, named after Jane Armstrong causes their white colouring. This means that moose in the area pass the recessive gene down to their offspring, which explains why so many white moose have been spotted near Foleyet.
In 2006, the MNRF deemed predominately white moose—over 50 per cent white—protected in the areas surrounding Kapuskasing, Timmins, Foleyet, and Chapleau. This law was passed “in recognition of [the moose’s] cultural and spiritual significance to First Nation communities, and for the purpose of enhancing wildlife viewing opportunities within the local Foleyet area,” Jolanta Kowalski, senior media relations officer for the MNRF, said in an email.
White moose are considered sacred among some of Canada’s Indigenous populations, representing ancestors reborn. As a result, they’ve earned the nicknames “ghost moose” or “spirit moose”.
Under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, the penalty for killing a white moose in the Foleyet area could be a fine of up to $25,000 and/or a term of imprisonment of no more than one year. The court can also forfeit seized game and gear as well as cancel licences and prohibit future hunting.
The MNRF is asking anyone with information to come forward. They can be contacted through their tip line at 1-877-847-7667. Information about any illegally shot animals can also be reported to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or reported online.