SYDNEY — The killing of a white moose in Cape Breton has sparked outrage in Mi'kmaq communities across Nova Scotia.
© Facebook photo
Hunters shot and killed a rare white moose in the Cape Breton Highlands recently, something that is upsetting the Mi'kmaq communities.
Clifford Paul, moose management co-ordinator with the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources, said he learned through social media that a white bull moose was killed in the Cape Breton Highlands last week by non-native hunters.
Paul said the white moose is considered a spirit animal in Mi'kmaq culture.
"They turn up from time to time," said Paul. "In the last six years in the Margaree side of the mountain they have been observed, as (many) as three at one time."
Paul said he learned about the incident on the Facebook page of Hnatiuk's Hunting & Fishing Ltd., which is located in Lantz, N.S.
"It is something that we would not harvest," said Paul. "We would just observe and let it go on its merry way."
According to the Facebook page, the moose was shot Thursday morning in Belle Cote by three hunters from Hachet Lake, N.S. The Cape Breton Post was unsuccesful in reaching the hunters.
Paul said that earlier this year another white moose had to be destroyed by the Department of Natural Resources due to illness.
"We know there is one more out there, a female, and we're looking for protection for these animals," said Paul. "It's a given not to harvest them. A lot of people in Cape Breton, native or non-native, know otherwise, but this hunter for some reason decided to make the kill."
Mi'kmaq elder and traditional hunter Danny Paul said the white moose is a spirit animal. "It could be one of our ancestors. 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."
While the rare white animal is considered sacred to the Mi'kmaq, it is not illegal to hunt white moose in Nova Scotia.
As a response to the killing of the moose, 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.
It is believed that the moose that was shot and killed in Cape Breton is leucistic rather than albino.
Peter MacDonald, DNR large mammal biologist, said leucistic animals also have a white pigmentation caused by a lack of the melanin pigment. This is different from albinism where there is a lack of all pigments.
Hunting moose in Nova Scotia is legal only in Cape Breton and moose hunting licences are granted through an annual lottery.