The albino moose shot by a junior hunter on Oct. 20 spurred a debate there on whether the snow-white bull, the stuff of legends, should have been shot, and that debate echoed here among hunters told of the rare moose shot in the Northeast Kingdom region of Vermont.
Hunter Chris Haskins in St. Agatha applied the survival-of-the-fittest argument in reasoning that it’s appropriate to leave a rare big bull because it’s endured despite standing out. But hunter Nancy Weeks in West Gardiner saw no issue taking the bull.
“It’s not like it’s the only one in the world,” said Weeks, a lifelong hunter who hunts with her granddaughters.
Elsewhere in Maine some who’ve hunted for a half century said the seemingly mystical creature should have been left in the wild.
“I personally wouldn’t have taken it. It’s a rare thing. I just think some things like that should be able to roam. There are plenty of moose around,” said Arlin Bigelow of Harrison, a hunter for 62 years.
Although Bigelow, the president of the Western Maine Fish and Game Association, did say that taking any animal is “the hunter’s choice.”
“Maybe a thousand million hunters would do the same thing. My personal opinion is, I would leave it,” Bigelow said.
Sherry Mariner, at the Sanford-Springvale Fish and Game Protective Association, would have left the moose for the same reasons as Bigelow.
“An albino animal is very rare. They are so few and far between. Basically to take it is like a trophy. Personally, I would not take it,” said Mariner, who teaches hunter safety.
Vermont’s modern moose hunt has been held since 1993. State officials believe only 1 in 100,000 moose are albinos.
However, Vermont Fish and Game Department spokesman John Hall said albinos appear in many different wildlife species and it’s not uncommon in Vermont to see albino deer or porcupines.
Two years ago Hall saw photos of an albino woodchuck.
“But I’ve got to admit, an albino moose is an impressive animal,” Hall said.
A bull the size of the Vermont albino with its impressive rack had done well to survive, Hall said, although he noted its offspring might not have fared as well. An albino animal is more vulnerable in the wild and its chances of dying are higher than animals with coats that camouflage better in the forest, Hall said.
That makes it a fair choice for a hunter, Hall said.
Hall said the parents of the teen girl who took the moose did not want to circulate her name and they covered the bull up as they left the tagging station, which is not required by law in Vermont.
Many Vermonters only saw photos of the moose from the tagging station, which was a state highway garage.
“It isn’t that they’re having great second thoughts about hitting the moose. They have really good memories of their hunt, it seems in the e-mails,” Hall said.
“But they do know it’s a controversial subject.”
And that’s true in Maine, though even hunters who disagree with the Vermont hunter’s choice still agree it was a personal one.
In West Gardiner, Weeks is familiar with albino animals. She said there is a white doe in the area that is frequently seen by locals.
Taking such an animal out of the wild increases the viewing opportunities for many, Weeks said.
“I assume they’ll have it mounted. More people can see that albino then. When it’s in the woods, it’s only spotted by one or two,” she said.
Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: