Locals of Timmins, Ontario, have been mourning the loss of a rare white moose, considered sacred by the residents.
Seeing one of them out in the wild is considered good luck in Indigenous culture, given that they should be spared by hunters.
Unfortunately, two female moose were killed by hunters in the city, including one white animal, with their remains found abandoned on a road.
“Everybody is outraged and sad. Why would you shoot it?” Chief Murray Ray of Flying Post First Nation said as per The Guardian. “No-one needs one that bad. If you have a license to shoot a cow moose, you could shoot another one. Just leave the white ones alone.”
According to the Elliot Lake Today report, the unfortunate incident is currently being investigated by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Shooting white moose is illegal under local legislation, after winning legal protections in recent years.
“Everybody knows about this, there are even signs there, saying about the white moose and watch out for it… I really hope they find the people that are responsible for this and they’re charged,” Murray added.
“White moose has been a symbol for us as long as we’ve known. It’s been known as the spirit moose. If you see one in real life and you get a glimpse of it, you just realize how much of a sacred animal it is and rare and majestic to see,” Fellow Flying Post First Nation member Troy Woodhouse added.
Woodhouse has also put up a $1,000 reward for any information leading to the poachers’ arrest, or for them to turn themselves in.
“Maybe it would encourage other local businesses or other First Nation members to voice their concerns and denounce that crime in general,” he said.
The total reward stands at $8,000, following other contributions from an animal welfare group and a local drilling company.
“Maybe hunters tried to get one moose and got the other by accident. If a person does come forward and admit what they did, I would put my portion towards any of their legal fees,” Woodhouse added.
In 2013, three poachers killed a white moose in Nova Scotia, angering local Mi’kmaq people. However, while they kept the head as a trophy, they returned the pelt so a multi-day ceremony could be held to honor the animal.
“It’s up to us to protect the land and the forest. We have a choice as individuals to stand up for what we believe in, and that’s what I was trying to do,” Woodhouse said.