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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Norwegian man chased up a tree by elk whilst jogging

A Norwegian man was forced to take refuge in a tree after being chased by an elk while out jogging.

Norwegian man chased up a tree by elk whilst jogging
A stock image of an elk. OndrejProsicky/Depositphotos

The animal ignored the man’s efforts to scare it off by shouting, and butted the tree in an attempt to force him down, NRK reports.

The running workout, along a path in Trondheim on Sunday, took a drastic turn for the man, who is in his 60s, the broadcaster writes.

An elk on the path cut such an aggressive form that the man was forced to seek refuge up a tree.

READ ALSO: Is it called an elk or a moose?

Fortuitously, the man was carrying his mobile telephone and was able to contact police.

“When he spoke to us he was sitting up the tree and the elk was standing on the hill below him. He couldn’t get anywhere,” police officer Trond Volden of Trøndelag Police District told NRK.

Trondheim Municipality’s animal patrol has estimated the animal to be one and a half years old, weighing in at three hundred kilograms.

The runner’s attempts to scare the beast away proved in vain.

“He tried to scare off the elk by making noises, but the elk just got angry and started butting the tree,” Volden said.

But the animal eventually withdrew enough for the man to climb down and was some way from the path by the time police arrived.

Municipal animal control (Viltpatruljen) in Trondheim subsequently decided to destroy the elk.

“We have a large elk population in Trondheim. We have a low threshold for putting down elk which behave aggressively near inhabited areas, so we therefore decided to destroy this elk,” Geir Lasse Aune of Viltpatruljen Trondheim told NRK.

Aune added that elk spotted near inhabited areas should be avoided, particularly by people with dogs, which can cause a defensive reaction in the elk.

READ ALSO: Elk shot in Norway after falling from daycare roof