When a rare white female moose was found dead in northern Ontario, Canada, along a remote service road last month, nearby indigenous residents were shocked. The animal is considered sacred by indigenous peoples in the region, and hunting it is banned in the areas where the slain animal was found. Then came outrage, sadness and a desire to find the people responsible.
White moose have been spotted in the Foleyet area near the city of Timmins for more than 40 years, per the Guardian. The Flying Post First Nation—the term used to describe certain indigenous peoples in Canada—has its reserve lands northwest of Timmins, and refer to the white moose as a “spirit moose.” The moose are not albino or a distinct species, and in fact owe their appearance to a recessive gene.
In the region, there are signs that warn hunters not to kill the white moose. The province has banned hunting the animal in the Timmins and Foleyet areas, according to CTV News.
As if killing the animal wasn’t enough, the people responsible left its remains, including its head, discarded on the road, the Guardian reported. The perpetrators also killed another female moose, although this one was not a white moose.
Flying Post chief Murray Ray lamented the tragedy.
“Everybody is outraged and sad. Why would you shoot it? No one needs one that bad,” Ray told the Guardian. “If you have a license to shoot a cow moose, you could shoot another one. Just leave the white ones alone.”
The incident has prompted an investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. The ministry told CTV news on Friday that it had not received any tips in the case, and a media representative said that it continues to investigate the matter.
Others are also trying to lend a hand in the search. Flying Post member Troy Woodhouse is offering a reward of C$1,000, or about $760, for any information on those responsible for killing the white moose. His reward prompted another Aboriginal business owner, Rene Turgeon, who works in the area, to add another C$1,000 for any information. Foundations and crime-stopping organizations have also donated, bringing the total reward to C$9,000 ($6,850).
Woodhouse told the Guardian that years ago, when he and his wife were fishing near the Groundhog River in Ontario, he saw a white figure on the tree line. As they got closer, Woodhouse found that the figure was a young white moose—right near his grandfather’s homestead.
“It was a sign that he’s watching over us on the land. It was very special to me,” Woodhouse said.