Sunday, June 6, 2010

Outdoors: Pete the moose saved, but at what cost to wildlife?

This from the Sunday Burlington Free Press. Interestingly, just below this article was a press release from the Fish and Wildlife Dept warning people not to pick up newborn wildlife. So you and I can't own or possess live wildlife but Mr. Nelson can with the help of our legislators? Anyone for a tea party?
Lawrence Pyne

Outdoors: Pete the moose saved, but at what cost to wildlife?

Lawmakers' last-minute change overrides authority of Fish and Wildlife Board at Big Rack Ridge

Hallelujah! Pete the Moose, his pregnant girlfriend, Patty, and their entourage of whitetail deer friends are saved!

In case you missed it, that's more or less how early news accounts described a last-minute move by a handful of legislators that spares scores of moose and deer in a captive-hunting facility in Irasburg from the cold-hearted scientists at the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. Under rules the biologists helped set in 2008, Pete and his pals had to be destroyed if the owner of the facility -- a 700-acre fenced compound called Big Rack Ridge -- wanted to continue offering pay-to-shoot "hunts" for trophy elk, red deer, fallow deer and other exotic game.
The Fish and Wildlife Board adopted the rules governing captive-hunting facilities under the direction of the Legislature after years of expert testimony and public input, and with the unanimous approval of the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules. It banned any new facilities, but otherwise gave Vermont's two existing game preserves almost everything they wanted, save for one thing: in order to receive a permit under the rules, they could not have any moose or whitetail deer in their enclosures.
The reason why is simple. Fish and Wildlife is required by law to sustain a healthy deer herd, and the captive deer industry is the No. 1 source of spreading wildlife diseases into new areas. Among many recent examples are costly outbreaks of chronic wasting disease in Michigan and both CWD and tuberculosis in New York.

Read more:


  1. Does nobody recall this story?
    Where is Bull now?

  2. From the Vermont News Guy blog Titled:
    Media (Including self-) Criticism
    June 7th, 2010
    GOOD COLUMN: Outdoor writer Lawrence Pyne in the Burlington Free Press noted Sunday that the celebrated “Pete the Moose” has been saved (though perhaps not permanently), but at the cost of possibly endangering the state’s wild deer herd.

    Pyne also pointed out the legal/legislative travesty involved. Without holding hearings, three lawmakers – Newport Republican Rep. Duncan Kimartin and Democratic senators Bobby Starr of North Troy and Susan Bartlett of Hyde Park – slipped language into the budget bill transferring authority over the animals at the “game farm” where Pete now resides from the Fish and Wildlife Department to the Agriculture Department.

    “Worse,” Pyne wrote, “they also essentially transferred possession of those animals to the preserve’s owner, in direct disregard of the long-standing public trust doctrine, which holds that wildlife is a publicly-owned resource.”

    Maybe even worse than that. It was legislative (meaning political) interference with legal proceedings, an inverse bill of attainder granting amnesty not just to the moose but to those who broke the law in its behalf.

  3. I think this had more to do with the people who thought the board exceeded it's authority when it chose to regulate farms and not so much to do with Nelson or pete.

    I think the situation is strange. With proper disease controls, it makes no sense that somebody can't have a whitetail or moose farm. The effort should be to properly regulate, but an outright ban is overkill. We don't ban all beef and dairy farms because of mad cow. One point that Pyne fails to acknowledge in his opinion piece is that the animals within the fence are not "game". They are farm animals destined for slaughter.

    The other strange side to this is the notion that "wild" animals shouldn't be kept in fences and slaughtered for food. At some point every animal that is within a fence had a distant relative that was wild when it was put inside a fence. People eat deer and moose meat, so why the moral dilemma over fenced-in deer? There are plenty of farms that don't do canned hunts and are strictly putting meat on the table. One point with regard to canned hunts, what is better? One can either shoot the unsuspecting animal in the field or one can round it up, put it in a truck, drive it to a slaughterhouse, force it into a stantion, and then kill it point blank with a 22. It's certainly not cut and dry which is better or more humane.

    With more and more people eating the products of these farms, the solution should be to allow the farms to proceed but with a good deal of regulation. The state should also have a mechanism whereby a farm could be stocked with native deer, perhaps some number of to use as breeding stock. The notion that somehow the public trust doctrine is being violated in some incomprehensible way is hype. In Nelson's case, it's 200 deer and some number of moose raised in an unsustainable manner because they are fed. Even with no CWD, we don't want to release those deer because they will demolish the local habitat. Shall the state hold a lottery to see who gets to go and shoot one? Or shall the wardens shoot them in the field canned hunt style? Either way, at the end of the day, there still will be cervidae inside that fence and there will be approximately 120,000 deer outside that fence. But at least some will feel good that Nelson didn't get their deer.

  4. Anon June 8 5:26 makes some good points

  5. Actually those points are awful. The Board did what they were told to do by legislative law in 1999. The legislative committee on admin rules ruled that the Board did not overstep its authority with clauses such as the "grandfather clause" - you know, the one that gave the Irasburg and Fairlee facilities the corner on the captive-hunt market in VT. Why would Nelson fight a rule that gives him the market to sell hunts for all the non-native species he currnetly had on the farm (and all the others that Fairlee had too)? think about it - it was never about $. The captive hunt rule said no white-tail or moose hunts - that was unacceptable to him - that's all it has ever been about. Bio-security? Really? what about that fallow deer that has been standing on Rte 14 next to his place for the past 2 weeks? NEWSFLASH: when Bull the Moose didn't work out for them, his "saviours" shot him dead in his pen. Message for Pete: sorry buddy, you can run but you can't hide - not anymore.

  6. The very fact that they are considered wild animals is reason enough that they should not be kept in a fence. Hence the word "wild" and in Vermont whitetail deer and moose are, by Legislative Statute WILD.
    How could the board excede it's authority if it was acting at the request of Legislature, and they approved the rule?
    It certainly would appear that this is a special deal for one individual. It is a travesty of justice that select Legislators would do this on the sly and not allow all an open, honest and fair debate on this issue. What were they afraid of? That their deal would not fly in an open debate? I think so.

  7. Anon June 7
    "With proper disease controls, it makes no sense that somebody can't have a whitetail or moose farm."
    An 8 foot fence with no required bottom securing is not enough. A second fence doesn't help much. One blowdown and it is all over. If the fallow deer that is outside the fence right now can get out you can bet the whitetails are trading back and forth. If we are very lucky there is no disease in that captive herd. That is the only way it will not get out into the wild herd.
    "The other strange side to this is the notion that "wild" animals shouldn't be kept in fences and slaughtered for food. "
    The Public Trust Doctrine of wildlife is one of the bedrock pillars of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model. This model is why we enjoy the greatest diversity and quality of game and democratic hunting in the world. It is the hunt of wild critters, not the kill of a habituated/fenced/ semi-domestic animal that makes hunting so important to many of us.
    "There are plenty of farms that don't do canned hunts and are strictly putting meat on the table."
    I agree - these farms are almost as much a threat to our wild Cervids as Nelson's. The one difference is the temptation to import (illegally) bucks and bulls because they can be sold at such high prices is not there. Rumor has it that there has already been a buck with superior genes brought into the Derby breeding facility. Unclear if the buck, or a pregnant doe or just semen has come in (or for that matter if this rumor is true). The point is the temptation will be great and the disease threat high.
    "But at least some will feel good that Nelson didn't get their deer. "
    Sorry - these deer are no more "their deer" than if your neighbor closed in your cattle that wandered onto his property. If you think that is OK I'm sure their are some folks who would be willing to come over with a cattle truck and help themselves.

  8. Any rule approved by the board can and will fall under the scrutiny of the legislature regardless of LCAR. LCAR approval only means the few people on that committee saw no reason to deny the rule, but that doesn't mean the entire legislature is in agreement with LCAR or that the entire legislature thought the board should or did have the authority. And evidently in this case, the entire legislature was not in agreement with LCAR. Whether these legislators were afraid of debate or just wanted to get the job done is unknown. If other legislators feel cheated, they certainly can bring the issue up in the next session.

    The board's captive hunt rule went well beyond eliminating whitetail and moose hunts on Nelson's property, it effectively killed/stunted an entire industry that includes farms that have no "hunts". The rule punished everybody including the people, stores, and restaurants that buy these products. It also put regulation of a farm into the hands of people who have no experience regulating farms.

    Regarding a loose deer, why ban farms because there is a loose deer? A loose deer is an argument for better controls, not a ban on all new farms. If a farm repeatedly has control issues, then the farm should be shutdown. But there is no reason to punish everybody for this one farm's actions. And frankly, a loose deer that has been loose for two weeks demonstrates that the Fish and Wildlife Department is not regulating the farm or is not capable of regulating the farm. This gives even more reason to transfer regulation to a different authority.

    It a strange irony that although we kill and eat both "wild" and "domesticated" animals we feel the need to treat them differently. We can't put a "wild" animal in a fence, even a fence that encloses a square mile. Yet, we regularly put "domesticated" animals in crates where they can't move at all and do even more extreme things such as in production of foie gras. For some reason, although we are perfectly fine killing, eating, and fencing in animals that once were "wild" and killing and eating animals that are "wild", we must not fence in a "wild" animal.

  9. I don't know who Anonymous is, but I generally agree with the points made.

    First of all, yes, this ruling sets a POTENTIALLY dangerous precedent if it allows anyone who fences in a property to become the unconditional owner of the native wildlife captured within that fence. But to me, it sounds like the previous rule was equally dangerous.

    In regards to the animals inside Nelson's fence, there is no net loss (at this point) to VT hunters (and honestly, who else besides the hunters really cares that much? The non-hunters raising hell here wouldn't notice the difference if nobody told them.). Either the State kills them all to prevent the release and possible transmission of CWD, or Nelson has paying customers kill them all, or they just stay there and die of old age... no matter which way you turn here, the animals were doomed. They have ceased to be viable constituents of VT's wildlife population.

    Regulation, not prohibition. If the issue is the risk of animals escaping into the wild to transmit disease, then require more stringent protections on the high fence operation. For example, higher fences (a motivated deer can find a way to clear an 8' fence), countersunk fence bottoms, and regular inspections of the fenceline.

    By the way, I'm still not so sure this whole CWD thing isn't being blown way out of proportion. Is it a threat to wildlife stocks? Sure, just like any other disease. But it's not CWD that is wiping the deer out of entire geographic blocks in Wisconsin... it's the State mandated slaughter which goes on despite the fact that it's becoming pretty clear that CWD remains in the ground like Anthrax, so killing off the deer doesn't really stop the disease.

    If the issue is the risk of people fencing in large properties in an effort to corral native wildlife, then make it illegal for them to profit from the hunting of native wildlife inside a fenced enclosure. Remove the financial incentive and the practice will die a quick death.

    As far as regulation of game farms and ranches, in my opinion the Agriculture dept. is most qualified to oversee these operations. The primary concerns are disease control and import requirements. Livestock (hoofstock) is not really the bailiwick of the Fish and Game Department... with the exception of regulations prohibiting the release of non-natives into the wild habitat.

    Bottom line, while I certainly agree that this issue turned into a political and legal SNAFU, I don't think it's over... and I don't think it's as bad as some folks are making it out to be. Take the lessons learned and make something valuable out of it. Get over the all-or-nothing mindset.

    And, in the interest of full disclosure... I am not at all opposed to high fence ranches. I agree with standards as to the operation and management of these places, but besides the method of slaughter, I don't see them as much different than any other livestock operation. Whether it's a captive-bolt gun, a bow, or a high-powered rifle, the end result is a dead animal.

  10. To Anonymous June 10. 10:41 AM,

    your words are plain false, and I suspect you know this already, so while these words are directed at you they are not for your benefit but for those that might see your lies by chance. The Nelson place has never been and likely never will be under jurisdiction of F&W. That was his choice to make when the Board rule passed. that rule affects only one of dozens of captive deer farms in the state. the way that the new Board rule affects that one facility is that they get to operate as they have done for decades - it's just now someone is actually watching. why should the state have to clean up messes that individual landowners make? maybe the state has the expertise to do so, but each of your escaped animals should cost one to ten thousand dollars for the state to retrieve. When you introdcue tuberculosis or chronic wasting disease to Vermont like captive deer farms did in New York, Michigan, and Missouri recently you should be made to pay for the entire clean-up effort - hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions. You spill the oil - you clean it up.

  11. Anon 9:38,

    Read the rule. It most certainly defines the role of the Fish and Wildlife Department and it most certainly gives the department authority. The farms can't exist without a permit from the Fish and Wildlife department.

  12. the "grandfather clause" meant the Board rule could only be applied to 2 facilities in the state. However, they could opt to be agricultural faciltiies, not hunt parks, if they so choose - exactly what Nelson chose to do. That is why this bit of legislation made no sense at all except to give Nelson the right to have his own "special seasons" to "cull" WTD and moose - all this nonsense has been about for over a decade.

  13. A human of a true heart feels deeply for the gifts of life bestowed on him when he shares in the systems that can take him and his childern another day , on their walk of life. Are you so disconnected from your heart that you need mother earth penned and planned? Which method has the most heart? I want my natural world to have a fair chance against me, so I must prove my worthiness. and earn my place and feel like I belong in these mountains wild and free, appreciating LIFE! If you examine your heart closely, seek the truth . nature's attraction will captivate you and you'll become wild in thoughts and asspirations. In a pen he must cower. on a mountain range his legs and ears nose and eyes, are tested by all and if he's deserving he will live on respected by ALL. Our power must be tempered by a true heart.
    Rodney Elmer

  14. that's just beautiful man

  15. You must check out for their outdoor gadgets and gears.