When Swedish politician Hans Nilsson captured video of a large white moose walking through the country's Värmland district, he knew he had something extraordinary on his hands. But just how famous his video footage would get, Nilsson couldn't predict.
In addition to National Geographic's August article explaining the genetic condition that likely made the moose white, Nilsson's video footage was covered extensively around the world.
Two months after news about the white moose broke, the animal was marked for death. Police decided to allow hunters to shoot it. But on Tuesday, the police walked back their decision and decided to spare the moose.
That decision was likely influenced, at least in part, by a petition created by Nilsson to save the moose's life. In a phone call with National Geographic, Nilsson explained that he felt a sense of responsibility toward the wild animal. He said more than 14,000 people signed his online petition to save the moose's life within 36 hours.
"I feel it's very important to protect a white moose, since it's so rare," he said.
The police department's decision was also perhaps motivated by the fact that no hunter in the area apparently wanted to be the person to shoot the world-famous white moose. Whoever shot it would have been known as the "white moose killer," Nilsson said.
Police had decided last week to institute what's known as a "protection hunt," after an incident involving the moose and a jogger. A young woman had gone jogging in a neighborhood bordering the moose's territory, reportedly with two dogs attached to a leash around her waist. When the dogs saw the moose, they began barking. The moose then charged at the woman, dislocating her shoulder.
Controversy ensued after she filed a complaint with the police.
Speaking with Swedish outlet SvenskJakt, a police officer from Arvika explained the hunt decision was made after residents—particularly the elderly—complained they felt unsafe.
In an email with National Geographic, Catarina Bernau, a communications representative from the Arvika government, said the decision was made entirely by the police department. It's a standard response to animals believed to be a threat to people, she said.
News about the hunt was met with public outcry, both by those who wanted the unusual moose spared and by those who believed the police reaction was over the top.
"If the decision had been against a brown moose, it would have been hunted more quickly," conceded Nilsson.
People tended to be divided into three camps: those who thought the moose should be spared because of its rare color, those who thought all moose should be spared, and those who thought it shouldn't be treated differently because of its color.
One Swedish moose sanctuary even offered to let the moose live its life within the protection of its walls.
While the moose is safe for now, it continues to be plagued by human attention. Local outlets report that, since news of its whereabouts published this summer, people have flocked in droves to Värmland to see the rare animal for themselves.
Nilsson, residents, and fans of the white moose fear it's only a matter of time before more human interference prompts another attack.