Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tame Moose


A story in today’s Wildlife Disease News Digestcould not have come at a stranger time. It is about a tame moose controversy in the state of Vermont and concerns a “rescue” of an injured moose by a man named David Lawrence. There are pictures to go with it. The big coincidence is that I have just spent two days writing first drafts of chapters about tame moose for a new work that I am calling Of Moose and Men. I hope to submit it to a publisher by late fall or early in the New Year.

The current story comes from a news source called, which bills itself as “Vermont’s Trusted News Source for 55 years.”

You can read the full Moose Triggers Controversy 28th July story here
It boils down to an account of how Mr. Lawrence has bonded with a moose that he has called Peter after he nursed it back to health following an attack by dogs when it was newborn. Mr. Lawrence is quoted a saying "I just feel this is my calling-- Pete and I love each other."

The problem is that owning a moose is illegal in Vermont and the rest of the story is a discussion of what happens next.

What is not discussed is that Mr. Lawrence may not know how lucky he will be if the moose is transferred to a zoo. This animal is a bull, and every year stories appear in news outlets about people being killed or injured by members of the deer family coming into rut and attacking people. The rut is not far off for moose – a month or two at most.

Tame moose are nothing new. Over two hundred years ago Canadian explorer Samuel Hearne noted that moose were
“the easiest to tame and domesticate of any of the deer kind...”
There are plenty of archival photos of moose around. One in the Winnipeg Free Press of 1908 showed a buggy being pulled by two young bulls. I am lucky to have been able to photograph the paper before it fell apart from old age. Others pre-date that and show settlers using moose harnessed to a travois for hauling household goods. At one time the ownership of a moose was made illegal in Finland because bandits of mooseback could easily escape police on horses.

The stories I am working on concern moose named Petruska, Castor and Pollux that were cared for on a ranch just outside Cochrane, Alberta. I was called there by owners Miles and Beryl Smeeton many years ago to help out with problems. Here, Miles is grooming Petruska. I’m not going to spoil the story now, but there were some amusing moments. One of these, amusing to look back on, but hair-raising at the time, occurred when Petruska and I played ring-around-the spruce-tree as she wanted to attack me for approaching her new-born calf too closely.

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