Three hunters have sparked outrage both online and amongst the indigenous Mi’kmaq people of Nova Scotia by killing a rare albino moose that is considered sacred. The three unnamed hunters were unaware of the animal’s spiritual significance when they killed it in the Cape Breton Highlands of Nova Scotia, Canada. It was only after photos caused a backlash on Facebook (which have since been taken down) that the trio realized the gravity of their mistake.

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The Mi’kmaq people consider all white animals to be “spirit” animals and have known about the moose for years, but refrained from harming it due to its significance within the community. Clifford Paul, moose management co-ordinator for the Unamaki Institute of Natural Resources highlighted what the animals mean to the aboriginal people when he spoke with CBC:

“We know the significance and we’ve been teaching that to the non-native population for almost 500 years — about the importance that this and other white animals played in our lives,” he said. “We are not to harm them in any way, shape, or form because they could be one of our ancestors coming to remind us of something significant that’s going to happen within our communities.”

Jim Hnatiuks, who runs a hunting and taxidermy store in Lantz, informed the hunters of their transgression when they brought the carcass into his store. He has also expressed regret on behalf of the hunters, saying that:

“These are good men and they broke no law, and they have expressed that it would have been nice to have known more about the significance of these white moose. Hopefully through this, many are much more informed and, this provides the catalyst for more to be done.”

As reported by AFP, locals also consider it bad luck to kill white animals, which led to the hunters returning the moose hide to the Mi’kmaq people, allowing them to perform a four day ceremony to honor the animal. While this may be enough to ease the outrage of some, it doesn’t quite explain why the hunters have kept the sacred moose’s head as a trophy.

Via TreeHugger

Images by Hnatiuks Hunting Fishing Ltd.