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Sweden's famous white elk could be shot after viral fame

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Sweden's famous white elk could be shot after viral fame
The white elk. Photo: Tommy Pedersen/TT
16:55 CET+01:00
A rare white elk which became famous around the world could be shot after it charged at a woman, according to reports in Swedish media.

Police have said they may have to shoot the animal, who has been named Ferdinand, after it charged at a woman who was out walking her dogs. 

The decision to cull the animal was taken last week by police, though hunters will first try to chase it away from the residential area. If that doesn't work, they will have to shoot it, Arvika police chief Christer Lööf told hunting magazine Svensk Jakt.

"Some people who live in the area don't go out because of the elk, for example older people with walkers who cannot get away when the elk comes close to them," Lööf explained. "This is not a pet, although many people seem to think so. The elk may seem tame, but it retains its natural instincts."

The elk went viral this August after it was caught on camera by a local councillor, Hans Nilsson, in Eda in the west of the country. Speaking to The Local at the time, Nilsson said: "It was an experience to meet such a stately animal up close".

The footage of the rare white creature was shared thousands of times on social media after being picked up by global media outlets including the BBC and National Geographic.

READ ALSO: Is it an elk or a moose?

But the animal's viral fame brought unintended consequences, with experts forced to warn sightseers to keep their distance from it after people flocked to the area to catch a glimpse of the elusive elk.

"It's very sad when you have seen the problem for a long time," local nature photographer Ingemar Petersson told The Local on Monday. "The decision has been taken because he [the elk] is aggressive, but I have never experienced that."

"There is a lot of pressure on the area, and many photographers have behaved badly, but the elk is not aggressive," he added.

A local couple complained that people had begun trespassing in their garden in an effort to catch a glimpse of the elusive elk.

"Of course it's worrying now so much attention has been given to it. My husband and I joked that we should maybe sell the house now that there's so much press about the elk being here," said Catrin Leverström, who added that the animal could get aggressive when it was harassed.

White elk can be explained by two conditions: one is albinism, while the other is leucism, a genetic variation which changes the colour of the skin and fur but unlike albinism, does not change the eyes.

By 5pm on Monday an online petition protesting against the decision to kill the elk had collected more than 1,400 signatures.

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