Swedish hunter Carl-Gustav Liderfelt, who took part in the Nordic country's annual moose hunt, managed to shoot a rare "gender-bending" specimen in Eksjö outside the city of Jönköping in southern Sweden. Although Liderfelt, by his own admission, has been hunting moose since his teenage years, he has never seen anything quite like it.
"At first, I did not see anything strange, it seemed to be like any other elk, until we took a closer look," 67-year-old Carl-Gustav Liderfelt told the Swedish trade magazine Svensk Jakt. "None of us had ever seen anything like it — the vet told me this happens around three times a year, out of 100,000 elk killed in Sweden each year," Liderfelt explained.
Torsten Mörner of the National Veterinarial Institute (SVA) attributed this phenomenon to some form of hormone disorder. A month-old moose fetus has no gender; this nature decides later, he explained.
"Sometimes, but very rarely, it goes wrong. In short, sex hormones like testosterone are not produced in sufficient quantities to cause the fetus to develop into a bull, resulting in something intermediary," Torsten Mörner explained. By his own admission, he has only witnessed several cases during his time at the SVA.
According to Mörner, though, the genderless moose cannot be regarded as a true hermaphrodite either, since it is required to have a set of both male and female genitalia.
Its age has not yet been officially determined but the hunters believe the animal was around four years old. Despite the unusual features of the moose, no problems with the meat were reported.
"It will be a little difficult to report the case to the game warden, whether we shot a bull or a cow," Liderfelt smiled.
Sparsely-populated Sweden, a nation of only 10 million, has an impressive moose population of around 300,000, second only to Russia and Canada worldwide. In summertime, the population increases to around 400,000, which allows for the annual shooting of some 100,000 moose by Sweden's squad of 300,000 hunters, according to the Swedish Hunters Association.