Why This Swedish Moose Is Entirely White

The rare colour comes from a genetic mutation, and one leading expert has a theory for why it may become more prevalent.

One completely white Swedish moose recently gained celebrity status after a local politician captured video footage of it wandering through the water in the Värmland region in the south west part of Sweden.

Municipal councilmember Hans Nilsson told a Swedish radio station Sverige Radio he's a nature lover who has frequently attempted to film or photograph the rare moose. After three years, he finally caught stunning footage of the bull moose crossing a shallow river and walking through tall grass. The moose appears to be entirely white, with soft white velvet coating even its antlers.

Watch this rare sighting of a white moose in Sweden. 

Despite the animal's all-white appearance, it's colouring does not result from albinism, a congenital condition that results in a loss of pigmentation. Cases of albinism in animals and in people result in light or pinkish coloured eyes. Moose with bright white fur more commonly obtain this feature from a recessive gene that causes the animal to grow white with specks of brown—a condition referred to as piebald.

While it’s not common for people to see white moose, compared to their brown counterparts, videos of the animal have surfaced before.

In late June, two white moose twins were captured on camera in Norway. Lee Kantar, Maine’s state deer and moose biologist, explained to National Geographic at the time that he thought it was possible the moose were albino or piebald (the footage wasn't clear enough to make a better determination).

Göran Ericsson is a professor of elk and moose for the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. He explained that, while the condition is rare, he sees news of white moose surface every year, and it’s possible the prevalence of these ghostly animals is increasing.

According to Ericsson, moose in Scandinavia face few predators—except for humans.

“Hunters have chosen to not kill any moose that are light,” said Ericsson. In other words, with white moose being effectively protected, natural selection might be making the condition more common.

“It is kind of like dog breeding,” he noted. “They [hunters] choose to select for traits that otherwise wouldn’t have occurred.”

Without an official database of white moose in the region, however, it can't be definitively said that white moose are becoming more common.

White moose have also been spotted in Alaska and Canada. These North American regions are also home to more abundant predators like wolves and bears, and it's unknown if the animals' white fur puts them at a disadvantage when trying to camouflage into the forest.

In Canada, hunters are prohibited from killing moose that are more than 50 percent white in colour.

Header Image: Rare sighting of a white moose in Sweden. Photograph from footage by Hans Nilsson via Storyful.

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