A year ago, when David Lawrence found a then-newborn moose with holes through both sides of his hip from an apparent dog attack, the 73-year-old retired dairy farmer from Albany, Vt., felt an instant connection.
“How could you refuse to take care of a baby who’s gonna die if you don’t care for him?” he told local news station WPTZ.
Lawrence brought the young animal to his friend Doug Nelson’s farm in nearby Irasburg, Vt., and now 15 months later, Pete the moose is thriving thanks to Lawrence’s regular feedings of fruits, bread and other treats like the occasional jelly donut.
The moose anticipates Lawrence’s visit every day, follows him around the farm, and waits patiently for him whenever he takes a break. Lawrence has also grown fond of the moose, telling WPTZ, “I didn’t want to get this attached, but it’s impossible.”
Wildlife officials step in
But they may be separated. As a wild moose, Pete’s stay on the farm, a 600-acre fenced-in elk preserve and hunting ground, is illegal. Because the elk at the preserve are imported, Vermont’s Fish and Wildlife Department is concerned that these non-native animals would spread chronic wasting disease (CWD) to the state’s wild deer and moose population, roughly 130 of which have jumped the fences into Nelson’s farm or were already there before he built them.
As negotiations go on between the state commissioner Wayne LaRoche and Nelson over what to do about moose like Pete, controversy has swirled over initial reports that the state may resort to slaughter.
“They’re going to come up and exterminate them all,” Nelson told the Rutland Herald on July 26, a claim LaRoche countered in a WCAX interview: “We have no plans right now of disposing any of the animals.” Still, he is adamant about enforcing the law, telling WPTZ, “The animals are multiplying. We need to do what’s necessary, and do it humanely.”
‘For Pete’s sake’No matter how “humanely” it is done, Lawrence doesn’t believe in ending Pete’s life. “Murder is not the answer,” he tells WCAX, and he isn’t alone in this sentiment.
On July 30, protestors gathered in Waterbury, Vt., waving signs like “Give Pete a Chance” and “For Pete’s Sake.” Lawrence, as have others, has pleaded that Pete be moved to a zoo. But the story of one moose has mushroomed into a larger question about private citizens owning wild animals.
Until then, Lawrence is “taking full responsibility for that bull” and determined to hold his own against Fish and Wildlife, hoping that he’ll be able to rescue Pete once again.