Three hunters who killed a rare albino moose, sparking outrage in aboriginal communities and online, say they made a mistake.

They didn’t realize the animal is a sacred symbol to the Mi’kmaq people and now efforts are being made to right the wrong.

“The hunters are saying ‘we wouldn’t have shot the moose if we had known it meant that much,’” says Jim Hnatiuks, who owns a hunting and taxidermy store in Lantz, N.S.

The hunters brought the moose to his store for mounting following a hunting trip in the Cape Breton Highlands.

Hnatiuks says the hunters weren’t aware of the implications of killing the rare moose - a Spirit Moose to the Mi'kmaq people.

“They thought they had a successful moose hunt. It was odd that they shot a white moose, but to find out wow, there’s a lot more behind it,” he says.

It is not illegal to shoot a white moose, so long as it is during hunting season and the hunter is licensed to do so, but the Mi'kmaq say it breaks an unwritten rule, a cultural belief they have held for generations.

After photos of the hunters posing with the moose surfaced on social media, First Nations communities were quick to voice their outrage.

Now, Hnatiuks is speaking on behalf of the hunters who, through him, have taken steps to ensure the moose is disposed of respectfully. They are returning the hide so the Mi’kmaq can perform a sacred ceremony.

“We’ve received full cooperation from the hunters and from Hnatiuks as well and, during the ceremonies next week, they’re actually willing to participate,” says Chief Bob Gloade of the Millbrook First Nation.

“It shows a willingness to cooperate and an ability to show respect to not only the Mi’kmaq people but also to the culture and history.”

Gloade says the sacred animals are only protected by tradition but he is hoping for legislation to protect spirit animals from being hunted.

“To recognize the importance and significance to the Mi’kmaq people is the next step moving forward and it’s a way of building better relationships between the aboriginal and non-aboriginal community.”

With files from CTV Atlantic's Gena Holley