A local Swedish politician filmed a completely white moose ambling around in Sweden's Värmland region.
The man who captured the footage, Hans Nilsson, didn't stumble across the moose by chance. He had apparently been seeking out the rare, elusive moose for a total of three years. Finally, his three years of searching have come to fruition. Nilsson managed to record the moose walking across a shallow river and though some tall grass.
The footage showed the moose to be white from head to toe, even its antlers. By now you've probably guessed that the moose has albinism, which results in animals that have abnormally pale coloring. That would be a good guess, but it's also wrong in this case. Apparently, the moose's whiteness does not come from albinism. One telling physical characteristic of albinism is pink or pale colored eyes. The moose did not have such eyes, which indicated that it was not an albino.
What, therefore, caused the moose's all-white coloring?
Photo by Tommy Pedersen/TT
The moose probably got its eye-catching coloring due to a recessive gene that causes piebaldism in animals. Piebaldism causes moose to grow white fur with specks of brown, and it's likely the condition that caused the moose in the footage to be all white in coloring.
All white moose are rare, compared to their brown counterparts at least, but this isn't actually the first time that someone caught footage of white moose. Just this past June, footage of not one, but two moose—one-month-old twins in Norway—made the rounds in the Internet. Alaska, home to a sixth of North America's entire moose population, has also seen a number of white moose.
We don't often see completely white animals because that kind of coloring stands out in the wild. It's an advantage in snowy places, hence the coloring of polar bears or arctic foxes. However, in forests, plains, and other non-snowy landscapes, having bright white fur or feathers can be a disadvantage. For one thing, it can make an animal extra visible to hungry predators keeping an eye out for prey.
A darker, brown coloring will make a moose less obviously visible as it roams around in the wild. Does it follow, therefore, that a white coloring is a disadvantage for moose?
Photo by Jessica Hemlin
The answer to that is still not clear. However, it may be safe to assume that if a white coat isn't an advantage, it may not be much of a disadvantage either. The moose in the video, for example, is already fully grown adult. This means that if it has managed to survive in the wild this long in spite of being more conspicuous than other moose, then maybe a white coat doesn't make an animal that much less likely to survive.
Deer and moose biologist Lee Kantar thinks that moose moms may have something to with white moose surviving to adulthood. Moose mothers are known to be very protective of their young. This is just as well, since the survival of an infant moose through its first month of life highly depends on how well its mother can protect it.
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