A Second Pardon for Pete the Moose?

Pete is a young 700-pound moose, but he’s no ordinary moose. He has an unusual tale and now he and some other animals are caught in the grind of policy-makers in Vermont.

When Pete was only a few days old, he was attacked by hikers’ dogs and abandoned by his mother and another sibling. Despite being told by the Department of Fish and Wildlife to leave Pete where he was and let him die if his mother did not return, they brought him milk replacer and got in touch with David Lawrence, who took Pete in and nursed him back to health.

Lawrence brought Pete to Big Rack Ridge, a 700-acre preserve in Irasburg, owned by Doug Nelson where there are deer, other moose and imported elk.

Two years ago when state laws mandated that Pete be moved or destroyed because the native animals should not be mixing with farm-raised elk due to risk of spreading disease, Vermont’s Gov. Jim Douglas granted Pete a pardon and asked Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Wayne Larouche to find a solution for the moose.

Activists worried that Pete would have to be killed and started a “Save Pete the Moose” movement that garnered national attention with a website, a Facebook page with thousands of fans, thousands of YouTube hits and a rally at the Statehouse.

A last minute compromise was made by the Vermont Legislature, and Pete, along with his companion deer and elk were designated a “special purpose herd,” and were allowed to continue to live at the preserve.

Now state lawmakers are being urged to reconsider.

Hunters and wildlife officials contend that allowing Nelson to own wild animals sets a dangerous precedent violating the policy that wild animals are part of a public trust and cannot be owned by an individual. They say this has given Nelson the ability to sell the right to shoot native deer trapped inside a square-mile enclosure instead of letting the herds remain open to the public.

“It was a terrible mistake made last year in giving private ownership of native wildlife to an individual,” said Patrick Berry, commissioner of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Berry said that allowing native species like white-tailed deer and moose to mix with imported elk and their feed could introduce chronic wasting disease that could spread to wildlife on the other side of the fence.

Nelson told a legislative committee that he tests his animals for disease. There have also been no reports of it in the state. 

Nelson opposes a bill that would transfer jurisdiction over the preserve from the state Agency of Agriculture back to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The bill, H.91, sponsored by Rep. David Deen, asks for a solution to be worked out between Nelson and wildlife officials. The animals may be removed in a controlled hunt or relocated.

Now, it looks like Pete and the other animals might get another chance. On Thursday, Governor Peter Schumlin pledged to pardon Pete. 

“You know I think there has been a lesson for all of this which is don’t take publicly owned wildlife and put it in private hands. I think the best way to solve this problem is to make sure it does not happen again. And let’s let the existing wildlife at the farm continue to live,” said Shumlin. “I would like to pardon them all.”

He deferred to biologists to answer the question of how to deal with the remaining animals. 

Berry stated that the other animals cannot be allowed to live in the enclosure, nor can they be set free. He is urging lawmakers to ensure that Nelson depopulates the property within three years. 


creative commons


Manuela B.
Manuela B6 years ago

Thanks Laurie for the insight, which i'm sure not all people are aware of.

Jan Garen
Jan Garen6 years ago

I have just been on several websites to find out what this Big Rack Reserve is. I cannot imagine why Doug Nelson has such a soft spot for Pete when he sells guaranteed kill hunting to slavering idiots who enjoy the sight of an animal being gunned down.This is not a preserve but killing fields.I hope Pete survives all this and that he is not being used as a publicity stunt for this assassin.

Janice Bever
Janice Bever7 years ago

This is very confusing. I know the DEC doesn't care anything about wildlife, the answer is always to leave them there and let them die.(they can all drop dead)now, this guy has a canned hunt? Depopulate, that means kill! The animals are the only ones who will suffer, what at bunch of screw ups. I hope the animals are going to be taken to a safe place and all the people, depopulate!

Lori Esposito
Lori E7 years ago

Don't lawmakers in that state have more important things to do instead of looking for bogus reasons why these animals should be removed/killed?! They haven't hurt anyone or other animals and it sounds like Lawrence knows what he's doing.

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B7 years ago

good luck., Pete

Marie Therese H.
Marie Therese H7 years ago

Gosh! and we still think we live in a free country. B.S.!

The man saved Pete's life, but is he praised for it? Not a chance! Instead the bloody lawmakers give him greif!

I'm pulling for Pete, may he live a full life. But whatever happens, the time he got to live (in comfort) is time he would not have had if that man had let him die of starvation.....

In today's society, having a heart is a criminal offence!

Robby C.
Past Member 7 years ago

Janis & Laurie- how did you find out that he was definitely on an enclosed hunt type of facility? That was the question I was asking originally b/c of the wording of a part of the article, but it wasn't 100% clear that he really was selling the rights to hunt the animals...

"They say this has given Nelson the ability to sell the right to shoot native deer trapped inside a square-mile enclosure instead of letting the herds remain open to the public."

So, if you two have found something definitive, please share it, as it could really change this entire debate.


Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago

thumbs up for Pete

Michael Hester
Michael Hester7 years ago

Animals on preserves are not owned by the people who protect them, any more than people in hospitals are owned by their caretakers.

Janis Totham-Davies

It is obvious to me as it should be to everyone else that Pete needs removing to a proper sanctuary, where there are other Moose for company and where he will be safe from hunters for the rest of his life. If I could take him I would, as this animal needs a safe haven and deserves one.

This man may have given him a home for now but I despise enclosed hunts. I despise hunts of any kind as they are nasty, cruel, unfair and unnecessary. Anyone who runs one should be ashamed of themselves, and anyone who uses a closed hunt to so-called hunt game like fish in a barrel, needs the same experience done to them. I am quite willing to hunt the hunters in a closed hunt to allow them to feel the fear and panic their prey does.

So I say free Pete to a proper sanctuary where he can blend in and become just a moose again. Not a bargaining chip or an advertisement for this mans closed hunts.