A moose with rare coloring has been spotted by the Alaska department of fish and game during an aerial survey.
The department shared a post on Facebook that featured a tan moose standing out among other dark brown moose in a winter landscape.
“While flying moose population surveys in interior Alaska this winter, ADF&G biologists spotted this rare, leucistic bull moose,” the post said.
“Leucism is a genetic mutation that causes a partial lack of pigment in the skin and hair (and feathers and scales in other animals) but not in the eye. This is not the same as albinism in which no melanin is present, and the eyes are pink.”
According to the US National Park Service, leucism also causes white coloration, white patches, spots, or splotches on the skin or fur.
Although Alaskan officials did not reveal the location of the moose, its Facebook post garnered nearly 500 comments and more than 5,000 shares.
One user wrote: “Very interesting. Hope he stays safe.”
But others expressed interest in hunting the moose.
‘That’s awesome! If you can drop me a pin so I can go shed hunting there!”, one comment said, referring to a type of hunt that involves searching for antlers that have dropped from an animal naturally.
“All I see is money,” someone else wrote.
“There must be numerous itchy trigger fingers out there! Please do not divulge location,” said another user.
Wildlife experts have warned that the moose’s light-colored features may endanger it. In a statement to the Washington Post, Kimberlee Beckmen, an ADFG wildlife veterinarian, said: “When your species is supposed to be a certain color, being white or lighter isn’t going to help you a whole lot.
“This lighter color is a bad thing for a moose. Natural selection selects against it because it either means they’re less healthy or they have a greater chance of being preyed upon.”
Beckmen added that the effects of leucism on an animal may include deafness and a shorter life span.
“These animals are a lot more likely to die young or to get killed … there’s a reason why they are so rare,” she said.
There are about 175,000 to 200,000 moose in Alaska. The sturdy herbivores, some weighing up to 1,600lb, are generally associated with northern forests and are valued for their meat and as a game animal. According to the ADFG, at least 7,000 moose are harvested annually in Alaska, yielding up to 3.5m pounds of meat.
In November 2020, a rare white moose that was considered a “spirit moose” by the Flying Post First Nation was killed by suspected poachers in Canada.
“It saddens me that somebody would take such a beautiful animal,” Flying Post community member Troy Woodhouse told the Guardian then. “Nobody knows exactly how many are in the area, so the loss of a single spirit moose is one too many.”