Fact Check

Albino Moose

Photographs show a pair of albino moose alongside a highway?

Published Feb 5, 2007


Claim:   Photographs show a pair of albino moose alongside a highway.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, January 2007]

Once in awhile there is an opportunity to take in a piece of nature that you may never see. The photographer of the following photos (unknown) was one lucky person. In these days of unrest and turmoil it is great to see that Mother Nature can still produce some wondrous beauty.

The odds of seeing an albino moose are astronomical and to see two of them together is nearly impossible. We wanted to share these photos with as many people as possible because you will probably never have a chance to see this rare sight again. This is a really special treat, so enjoy the shot of a life time.

These animals were photographed just north of the Wisconsin border on a highway near Marenisco, MI. Someone asked if there is anything mystical about this sighting. I do not know but I do know that I really enjoy looking at them. I am pretty sure that if you send them to five friends nothing magical will happen except you will know that you have shared a unique experience that they will never see again... ENJOY

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Origins:   Tracking down the origins of these

photographs of a pair of "albino moose" along a highway has not been a straightforward task, because these critters are apparently wide-roaming moose: differing versions of the accompanying text have placed them all across North America, from British Columbia to the Maritime provinces in Canada, and from Michigan to Maine in the United States. As best we can ascertain, the pictures date from mid-2006 and were taken somewhere in eastern Canada. (Various claimants have asserted they snapped these pictures in northern Ontario, Newfoundland, and New Brunswick.)

However, although the photographs may be genuine, the animals pictured are likely not true albinos but rather white-colored (or "white-haired") moose, an unusual genetic variation of the species that has been spotted in several states and provinces:

In general, moose have brown coats of hair. In some rare cases, the colour of moose coats can range from predominantly white to a mixture of white and brown. White-coloured moose are not a separate species, but are examples of a rare colour phase that can occur naturally in wild moose populations.

White-coloured moose have been reported in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Newfoundland, Alaska and Idaho. Restrictions on the hunting of white-coloured moose were put in place for the Port au Port Peninsula in 2002 by Newfoundland and Labrador. No other province has hunting regulations prohibiting the harvest of white-coloured moose.

In 2002 the state of Idaho took similar steps to protect a particular white moose during hunting season:

A group of eastern Idahoans smitten by a white moose have persuaded the state to make the animal off-limits to hunters.

Steve Huffaker, director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, made an emergency order making it illegal to shoot the albino cow moose, which has been

spotted with a black calf on private land in southeastern Idaho. The moose hunting season opened [a few days ago].

The move came after the Fish and Game Commission received calls and petitions from residents near Soda Spring pleading for the animal's protection.

Albino moose have been showing up in the area for several years, said Dale Toweill, trophy species manager for the fish and game department.

Normally, only 1 in 100,000 moose have the albino trait, which is recessive. But the gene appears to run in the herd in southeastern Idaho, where Toweill theorizes the probability of an albino moose may be 1 in 10,000.

In October 2009 the above-displayed photographs were combined with a set featuring another white moose (described in the accompanying text as a "Beautiful Snow Moose"):

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We don't yet know the specific origins of this second set of photos, but contextual evidence suggests the pictures were taken in the western U.S. or Canada.

Last updated:   1 November 2009


    Harrigan, John.   "Neat Photo. Is It Real?"

    [Manchester] Union Leader.   4 February 2007.

    Sharp, Eric.   "The Myth of Moose."

    Detroit Free Press.   4 February 2007.

    Juneau Empire.   "Idaho Puts Albino Moose Off-Limits to Hunters."

    18 October 2002.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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