Two stories came to my attention this week, related in a sad way, one true, the other maybe not.

For the past two years, in northern Vermont up near the Canadian border, there had been reports of an albino moose – a rarity, made even more rare by the fact that it had apparently survived into adulthood. And for the past several years, in the West Country of Britain, there were stories of a red stag so large and so magnificent that it was nicknamed ‘The Emperor’ and generally thought to be Britain’s largest would animal.

Both were reported shot and killed by hunters – legally.

In Vermont, it was moose-hunting season. The 744-pound albino moose with an antler spread of 45 inches was brought to a weighing station. The hunter was a teenage girl who was hunting with her father. All very legal. There are no restrictions to shooting an albino moose in Vermont.

Things are a little sketchier in England. The original story of the killing of ‘The Emperor’ touched off a wave of national hand-wringing. The problem is, there’s no proof that the animal is actually dead, shot or otherwise. Reporters trying to get information are running into dead ends. People supposedly heard shots, and haven’t seen the stag in any of its regular places since.

Some have even begun to doubt that the animal ever existed, on a par with the Loch Ness monster.

True or not, both stories pose an ethical question. Are there circumstances when a hunter should back away from killing a particular animal even though it would be legal to do so? Or do we have to burden wildlife officials with the task of coming up with regulations for every possible special circumstance?

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