MONTPELIER - The northern Vermont game preserve where Pete the Moose lived and died is to close, state officials said yesterday, moving Vermont a step closer to ending the practice of allowing wildlife to be imported into the state and fenced in on private hunting grounds.
Walt Driscoll, a member of the state Fish and Wildlife Board, said the owner of the Big Rack Ridge hunting preserve told him he planned to close the preserve in Irasburg. The property has been in the spotlight because of an orphaned moose named Pete that lived there and gained a public following.
Driscoll made his comments after a legislative committee approved rules that call for all the deer and moose on Doug Nelson’s preserve to be killed within the next three years to prevent the possible spread of chronic wasting disease. The fatal malady has struck herds of wildlife kept on hunting preserves elsewhere in the country.
Closing the Irasburg preserve would leave Vermont with one such preserve, Wild Hill in Fairlee, said Mark Scott, the department’s wildlife director.
Aside from worries about disease, state wildlife officials share the view of many hunters that it is improper to fence in wildlife.
Lawmakers made that position official earlier this year when they passed a law declaring that wild animals are a public trust, which means that legally they are owned by every state resident.
State wildlife policy was put under the microscope when one of the moose on Nelson’s property was adopted by a neighbor who named it Pete. The neighbor said Pete needed special treatment because he had been orphaned. Pete soon had a Facebook page devoted to him.