Moose Triggers Controversy - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Moose Triggers Controversy

Peter the moose and David Lawrence Peter the moose and David Lawrence
Vt. Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Wayne Laroche Vt. Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Wayne Laroche

Irasburg, Vermont - July 28, 2009

"Come on Peter."

David Lawrence is calling a friend in for a snack.

"There you come-- come on Peter."

It doesn't take long for Peter to show up. Peter is a moose.

"You ready?" Lawrence asks.

The animal lover nursed a newborn moose back to health after it was hurt by dogs. It's now 15 months later.

"I just feel this is my calling-- Pete and I love each other," Lawrence says.

Peter lives on a 600-acre elk preserve in Irasburg owned by Lawrence's longtime friend Doug Nelson.

Nelson admits, "It's a little bit unusual."

It's also illegal. The state does not allow people to own wild animals. The elk are imported and OK. But Peter is not. And the state has contacted Nelson to say that the moose can't stay.

"We are enforcing these regulations, laws against everybody in the state," Vt. Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Wayne Laroche explains. "We cannot pick and choose how we enforce these regulations."

"I take total responsibility for that bull," Lawrence says. "I am the bad man. And I don't care-- because I know I'm right."

The debate has centered on Peter the moose, but the state is worried about other wild animals that are in this elk preserve. Doug Nelson estimates there are about 120 deer and at least a dozen other moose.

Laroche has grave concerns that the deer and moose could get infected with chronic wasting disease and spread it outside. Laroche says that could devastate the wild herd and impact hunting across the state. Plus a new law in January requires hunting preserves to get a permit from the state and to meet the conditions that there be no native animals inside the fence.

"There have been some reports in two weeks we would dispose of the moose and that is not true," Laroche says. "We have been discussing things but we have no plans right now of disposing any of the animals."

The commissioner plans to keep talking to Doug Nelson, but if there isn't some solution he plans to take legal action and step in to deal with all the animals, including Peter.

"I took it upon myself this issue-- and it's got to be resolved," Lawrence says. "Murder isn't the answer."

Lawrence may move the moose to a zoo and keep fighting to keep the other animals alive.

The commissioner says releasing all the deer and moose is not an option because of the concern they could spread disease.

Supporters of Peter the moose are planning a rally Thursday at the Fish and Wildlife Office at 6 p.m.

Kristin Carlson - WCAX News

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