Close this search box.
Close this search box.
Dar Tanner | X

Rare Spirit Moose Sighting Raises Questions About Wildlife Protection For Cultural Beliefs

Spirit moose are protected in some parts of Ontario due to their cultural and spiritual importance, but no such laws exist in Alberta

The existence of spirits is highly debated, but two Alberta photographers captured a ghost-like figure on camera last weekend. 

The white moose, also known as the spirit moose, made a hair-raising appearance just before dusk on Sunday, leaving the photographers in awe at the once-in-a-lifetime sighting. 

The white moose captured by Dar Tanner and his wife Theresa in central Alberta
The white moose captured by Dar Tanner and his wife Theresa | X

Dar and Theresa Tanner were driving along a rural road in central Alberta when the rare animal crossed the road in front of their car. 

A darker moose followed close behind. The peaceful encounter was a change of pace for the married couple, who usually photograph storms. 

Dar and Theresa should consider careers in wildlife photography! 

The rare sighting meant more to Dar than a couple of photos. 

Dar is Cree, and the white moose represents good luck in her culture. 

Many Indigenous cultures revere white animals as omens of good fortune, fertility, plentiful rain, and bountiful harvests. 

The last time a white moose was seen in Alberta was in March 2023. David Frizzell was driving home from work when he spotted one off Highway 21 near Stettler. 

“I hung around for about half an hour to take it all in. I was probably 60 or 70 yards away from the animal itself,” Frizzell told the Red Deer Advocate

Frizzell also recalls seeing a white deer while hunting but didn’t have a good opportunity to photograph it. 

However, the moose Frizzell saw was not a pure albino. 

In animals, albinism is a lack of melanin that results in white hair, feathers, scales, skin, and reddish-pink or blue eyes. 

The moose Frizzell took photos of had coloration in some parts of the fur and lacked the red eyes of albino animals. 

The spirit moose photographed by David Frizzell in 2023 | David Frizzell | The Red Deer Advocate
The spirit moose photographed by David Frizzell in 2023 | David Frizzell | The Red Deer Advocate

Rarer Than A Blue Steak

Ron Bjorge was a regional wildlife biologist for the Red Deer area and the former executive director of wildlife management for Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

Bjorge retired in 2016 and recalls having never seen an albino moose during his 20 years of wildlife-related work. 

“I’ve looked at thousands of moose in the area, and I’ve never seen an albino moose. In doing aerial wildlife inventories for the province for years, I never saw one,” said Bjorge. 

Three hunters with aan albino moose they hunted in Nova Scotia
Three hunters posing with an albino moose they killed in Nova Scotia. The hunters were within their rights, but the killing sparks outrage from the Mi’kmaq people. Once the hunters learned of the spiritual significance of the moose, they apologized and gave the hide to the Mi’kmaq people | Men’s Journal

The latest white moose sighting is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, Dar and Theresa had a once-in-a-lifetime encounter.

On the other hand, the sighting has made headlines and is sure to attract the attention of hunters to the area. 

Dar hopes white moose can be protected like they are in Ontario.

Spirit moose in Ontario were protected by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in 2006 due to the animals’ cultural and spiritual importance to First Nations communities. 

If a person is convicted of killing a white moose in certain areas, they could receive a fine of up to $25,000, be sentenced to one year in prison, or both. 

However, there are no laws protecting albino animals in Alberta. What does that say about our province’s respect for Indigenous beliefs? 

Alberta’s moose population was estimated at 115,000 in 2014. Still, that number is thought to be declining due to climate change, habitat loss, disease, and recreational hunting. 

Our laws and regulations must adapt to accommodate changes in wildlife populations and habitats and consider cultural needs.

Hopefully, this spirit moose is a harbinger of more than good luck but also reconciliation. 

To see more of Dar and Theresa Tanner’s work, be sure to follow them @treetanner and @dartanner

Share this story

Stories in your Inbox, daily or weekly

Choose the types of stories you receive.

Related Stories