A rare white moose was shot illegally in northern Ontario, prompting outrage from First Nations people in the area who consider the animal to be significant to their culture.
The province’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry began investigating the incident after someone reported finding the moose’s head in the Nova Road area, west of Timmins, Ont., where the ministry confirmed that two moose — one of which was white — were shot during the week of Oct. 26.
“We’ve always grown up knowing about the white moose — they’ve been spotted in that area for at least the last 40 years,” Troy Woodhouse, a member of Flying Post First Nation, near Timmins, told Global News.
“Some people believe it’s a sign from our old ancestors from the area watching over us, so that’s very important to the people of Foleyet and Flying Post First Nation community members.”
The predominantly white moose, also known as the “spirit moose,” was protected by the MNRF in 2006 due to their cultural and spiritual importance to First Nations communities and to enhance wildlife viewing opportunities in the Foleyet area.
“Some of our First Nation, who lives in Foleyet and around there, they’re a little bit more outraged,” Murray Ray, the chief of Flying Post First Nation, said.
“It’s a special moose, and that’s why they’re protected … They’ve been there a long time.”
Woodhouse has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for a reward for the person who provides information that leads to an arrest of the suspect. If the perpetrator comes forward, Woodhouse said he’d possibly put the money toward that person’s legal fees since shooting the white moose may have been a mistake.
“I’d like to (hear) their side of the story, too,” Woodhouse said. “Maybe the people just genuinely didn’t know the rules. A lot of people come in from out of province to hunt the area, from up north and down south.”
Currently, the GoFundMe page has raised more than $5,200.
If the perpetrator isn’t found by August, Woodhouse said he will use the funds to further protect the white moose by putting up signs, educating people and by donating the rest of the money to the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Muskoka.
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In Ontario’s wildlife management units 30 and 31, which encompasses Kapuskasing, Timmins, Foleyet and Chapleau, it’s illegal to hunt a predominantly white moose.
If a person is convicted of killing a white moose in those areas, they could receive a fine of up to $25,000, be sentenced to a year in prison, or both. The court can also forfeit seized game and gear, cancel a person’s licences and prohibit them from hunting in the future.
According to the MNRF, the white moose population is estimated to be about 50 and most sightings are near the Foleyet area.
Anyone with information regarding the white moose is asked to contact the MNRF at 1-877-847-7667 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.