Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fish & Wildlife Commissioner raps elk hunting park plan

From the Burlington Free Press:
Politics and Government
A trophy elk strolls along a road at Big Rack Ridge in Irasburg on Monday, June 14, 2010. It is part of a herd of 50 or more male elk on the square-mile property. Owner Doug Nelson of Derby sells elk hunts for $2,000 to $7,500 to clients from across the Northeast.
A trophy elk strolls along a road at Big Rack Ridge in Irasburg on Monday, June 14, 2010. It is part of a herd of 50 or more male elk on the square-mile property. Owner Doug Nelson of Derby sells elk hunts for $2,000 to $7,500 to clients from across the Northeast.

By Candace Page, Free Press Staff Writer • Wednesday, October 27, 2010
  • Debate continues to swirl around Big Rack Ridge, the hunting park in Irasburg that is home to non-native elk, exotic deer, native white-tailed deer and an orphaned moose known as Pete.


In a six-page letter to the Agriculture Agency, Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Wayne Laroche says the park’s proposed management plan fails to comply with state regulations and might not protect the health of the park habitat, the captive animals or Vermont’s wild deer.
“The plan offers little, if any, assurance that management of this captive herd will be conducted in such a manner as to secure the health of Vermont’s free-ranging white-tailed deer and moose population,” Laroche wrote late last week.
He was responding to a plan filed by Doug Nelson, a dairy farmer who also raises trophy-sized elk, which are confined to Big Rack Ridge, where hunters pay to shoot them. The management plan was written by Nelson’s consultant, James Kroll of Texas, a wildlife biologist and an expert in managing captive deer.
Nelson and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment about Laroche’s critique.
Laroche has no power to approve or deny the plan. In legislation written behind closed doors earlier this year, state lawmakers stripped his department of oversight of the Nelson park and transferred that authority to the Agriculture Agency.
Legislators acted after public protests that Fish and Wildlife rules would require killing all the native deer and moose trapped inside Nelson’s five miles of fencing as a disease-prevention measure. State wildlife biologists say the non-native animals brought to the hunting park could spread a feared illness, chronic wasting disease, to Vermont’s wild herd.
Protesters were defending Pete the Moose, an orphaned bull moose adopted by a local man and later housed at Big Rack Ridge. Pete became a cause celebre, with his own Facebook page and rallies.
But the legislators’ decision also sparked outrage, this time on the part of some hunters who fear not only the spread of deer diseases but viewed the law change as giving Nelson ownership of the white-tailed deer inside his fence, deer that by longstanding doctrine are considered the property of all citizens.

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