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ELK

Dane shoots Norway’s best-known albino elk

The shooting of an albino elk by a Danish hunter in south-east Norway has brought death threats for the hunting trip operator Norwegian hunters who had long agreed to let the white mammal live.

The albino elk, or moose as the animal is called in North America, is a white-furred sign of good fortune in the lore of northern native peoples in Scandinavia and North America. Its appearance on hunting trips has been enough for many to call off their hunt.

The Danish hunting club leader said he has reported a number of death threats he said were “unpleasant” after the white elk, known locally as Albin, was shot on Wednesday afternoon near the village of Spydeberg in Østfold County.

“(The death threats) were of such a serious nature that it’s a case for the police,” said hunt organizer Sigmund Lerheim.

“There’s nothing funny about it when you have a family,” a tired Lerheim told newspaper VG.

Lerheim said his hunting comrades wanted to be open about having shot the protected albino.

North American, Russian and Scandinavian indigenous people have believed a white elk, or moose, to be a bringer of good luck.

The Norwegian newspaper’s online affiliate, VG Nett, allowed mourners to send their “condolences” to the white mammal. Its annual appearances had been reported dutifully by wide-ranging Norwegian news bureaus.

Lerheim said his troop wasn’t happy about the Dane among them shooting the Great White, although he said it was legal. The animal was protected by a deal among hunters, although the Dane appears to have shot a slightly “soil-covered” elk that was “grey on the sides” unaware that it was “Norway’s best-known elk”.

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ELK

Why rare white elk can be spotted in Norway’s forests

Many hunters in Norway choose not to set their sights on the rare white elk, meaning the genetic factor that produces it can thrive.

Why rare white elk can be spotted in Norway’s forests
The white elk is so rare in Norway that we don't have a photo of it. Photo: Dick Millet/Unsplash

The light-coloured variant of the animal is an unusual sight in the wild in Norway and is therefore protected in some areas near the Swedish border where hunting is permitted.

In turn, the chance of sighting a white elk is higher in these localities, according to a report by broadcaster NRK, which cited local residents as saying they regularly observe white elk.

White elk are not white due to albinism but because of a recessive gene.

“An elk being is white is similar to us humans having blue eyes. There are many of us with blue eyes here in the Nordic countries, but it is due to a factor known in technical terms as recessivity. This means that this gene is easily repressed and not dominant. Even if the mother is white, there is a very small probability that the calf will be too,” Göran Ericsson, a professor in natural ecology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, told NRK.

“It is a pigment deficiency, but in contrast to albinism these white elk are exactly the same as other elk. Classical albinism often affects other things and (individuals) don’t have as much chance of surviving or reproducing,” he also explained.

 

Although the genetics which produce the white elk are recessive, consensus over avoiding hunting elk of this particular colour may result in a higher prevalence of the recessive gene, including in regular elk.

Knut Arne Gjems, leader of the Norwegian Association of Hunters and Anglers (Norges Jeger- og Fiskerforbund), described the protection of the white elk by hunters as a “curiosity”.

“The (white) elk is not protected because it has a different colour as such, but there are several local landowners who choose to protect the white elk anyway. It's good take care of them as a curiosity,” he told NRK.

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