Moose and tortoise

Moose in Barton. Photos by Bethany M Dunbar

by Bethany M. Dunbar, April 16, 2010

On Tuesday afternoon we were working away on stories about a Supreme Court ruling and the school budget vote when we were inexplicably drawn outside.  We just had to go look at Chris Braithwaite’s brand spanking new Mini Cooper.  It’s a beautiful thing, and its magnetism drew the entire editorial staff of the Chronicle out the door.  Didn’t hurt that it was an incredibly beautiful day out there.  In fact, we have a tendency to wander outside at the least provocation at times like these.

Then our neighbor just uphill of us on Water Street excitedly shouted, “Look at the church!”  We did.  We did not see anything unusual about the church down the road.

But it turns out a young wandering moose had just turned the corner and headed up in our direction.  Pretty soon we got a glimpse.  I grabbed a camera and away we went on a little mini moose safari.

Turns out it would not be difficult to get a picture.  All I had to do was have the nerve to stand still as it clomped past me, about two feet from me, and shoot some pictures.  I was seriously tempted to pat the thing, but she (I’m pretty sure it was a young female about a year old or so) looked so nervous I thought I’d better not.

I did get a chance to pat a moose before.  My friend David Lawrence had a moose named Bull before he had the famous Pete.  My work day on the day I did a story about Bull the moose and David was one of my favorite days of work in my whole life.  Hanging out with David is a real treat anyway — he has so many stories.  The day turned out to be a bit longer than we thought because we got a little bit stuck in the snow.

Luckily David had provisions — Budweiser and jelly doughnuts that he used to share with Bull.  I asked him once if Pete likes beer.  At that time he told me no, Pete is too young for that.

Right by the Chronicle office

Okay, back to Barton on Tuesday.  Possibly my experience with Bull made me a little less afraid and I got some incredible shots.  The moose went right around the Chronicle office and right between my 13-year-old Subaru and Chris’s brand new Mini Cooper.  I’m really glad she didn’t step on the Mini.

Of course I could not fit all the pictures in the paper, so I’m going to post the whole batch here because what the heck.

I got a little nervous when the youngster was crossing the main road, Route 16.  But it’s Barton, and luckily there was no traffic.  I waved my arms to warn the two cars going by to slow down.  She wandered into the yard of the McMasters, and the next door neighbors got some nice close-up photos too.  Bill Bouvia said he only moved here seven months or so ago and was certainly thrilled to see a moose in his yard.  He said his friends would never believe it, but I think they will because his companion got lots of pictures.

Right after the moose went by me - Chris is in the background.

The three of us watched while the critter tried to get in Dan McMaster’s house.  Too funny.  I don’t know why it was so interested in the handicapped-access ramp or the garage door, but once it stepped on a piece of metal roofing, the noise scared the youngster and she headed off to cross the river and make some new friends with a group of work horses across the river.

Lucille Letourneau, the other neighbor, ran to tell Dan, who was completely amazed.  He said maybe the moose wanted to check out the apartment he has for rent.

Back to the office we went, and before the night was through I had more to think about than moose pictures.  I also had to get the word out about the stolen tortoise.  Peter Lowry, who has parrots and other exotic animals at his home in East Albany, called to say someone had stolen his 100-pound African tortoise, which has a 24-inch shell.

What an incredibly rotten crime.  These creatures need particular care and whoever took it probably doesn’t know what to do.  I’m posting the photo here in hopes it might help catch the jerk that took Peter’s beautiful old tortoise, which he has owned for 19 years.

Peter Lowry's 19-year-old African tortoise was stolen.

Also this week my old friend Harold Nunn died.  Such an interesting man.  He worked with televisions and electronics but had a serious hobby of studying Native American lore.  He took me around to several sites one day.  My story about Harold appears on the Chronicle’s web site. We will miss Harold.

It’s snowing this morning in beautiful downtown West Glover.  But I still think we made it through winter, and this will melt away fairly soon.  Have a great weekend and keep an eye out for wandering moose and stolen tortoises.

Lucille Letourneau, Bill Bouvia, moose.

Heading up Water Street.

This is our next-door neighbor who first alerted us to the moose.

Tena, Paul, moose.

The moose is either on, or just behind, the ramp.

Bye bye Ms. Moose. Good luck out there in the world.

From the archives: Bull moose befriends Albany outdoorsman, the Chronicle, February 14, 2007

by Bethany M. Dunbar

IRASBURG — David Lawrence of Albany pulls up in his four-wheel-drive pickup through deep, hard, wind-blown snowdrifts.  It’s a trip he makes every day to see his friend, a huge tame moose he has named Bull.  With him in the truck are a pail of apples, a bag of jelly donuts, a loaf of bread, a 12-pack of Budweiser and a curious newspaper reporter.

Bull lives at the Doug Nelson farm, in a 40-acre fenced area with Asian elk fawns.  On the place there are also fallow deer, red deer, whitetails and other animals.

The fawns are pushing their noses through the fence, eating hay but hoping for some apples.

Mr. Lawrence looks around, waits for a bit, then goes back to his truck and honks the horn three times loudly, hollering, “Bull!”

From out of the woods trots a huge bull moose with a full rack.

Bull’s pasture is next to a 600-acre fenced place Mr. Nelson uses for controversial “canned hunts.”

In other words, someone can pay to come into the larger fenced area and hunt for an elk.

When the fence was built, the state of Vermont had not made rules for such hunts.  Mr. Nelson testified before the Fish and Wildlife Board at a public hearing in Montpelier on Monday night that he asked Fish and Wildlife officials at the time, about 14 years ago, what to do about the wild animals that would already be inside.  He got no answer other than that officials did not want him to build the fence.

The board has still not made rules, but that is likely to change later this month.  Mr. Lawrence is afraid the Fish and Wildlife officials will want to kill off the wild animals living within the fences, including Bull.

“I got him when he was a day old,” he said.  Bull will be four on April 24.

Mr. Lawrence helps Mr. Nelson feed and care for the various wild and domestic animals inside the fences.  Almost four years ago, he saw a cow moose inside the fence starting to give birth.  He knew there was a bear in the fence also, so he stayed and watched from a distance to see that everything went okay.  It didn’t.  The calf’s birth was extremely difficult for the mother moose, and she ran away shortly after the calf was born.

Mr. Lawrence left the baby alone for the day, watching to see what would happen.  When it became clear that the mother had truly abandoned the calf, he picked him up.

“Bull and I have been pretty much compatible,” Mr. Lawrence said.  “I’m the only one he 100 percent trusts.”

He said Bull is quite domestic.  He got out once last fall and was bothering the neighbors.  At that time, they had not locked the fence and someone left a gate open, so Bull wandered out.  But they got him back in and now the gates are all locked.

Mr. Lawrence said it’s not uncommon for a moose to abandon a new calf, and about two weeks after Bull was born it happened again at the Nelson place.  Mr. Lawrence raised that baby, a female, and named her Cow.

Mr. Lawrence has done a lot of hunting in his time, but he doesn’t do much now.  He’d rather take care of animals.  He does some nuisance trapping for people, if they have a skunk or a raccoon bothering them.  Last winter he had 16 skunks living in his barn.  Those are animals that he trapped for people and released in his barn.  By spring they were all gone, and there are none in there this winter.  Earlier this winter he trapped a feral cat for someone and brought it into his house.  He set up a litter box and food dish.  He has not seen the cat since, but it is eating and using the box.

“I think he’s better off in my house until spring,” he said.

Mr. Lawrence tamed a coyote once.  It was so tame it would ride with him in his truck, and she hung around for 12 years.

“Her name was Princess.  She was blonde,” he said.  “She was hard to control, but I did the best I could do.”

Mr. Lawrence even makes friends with chickens.  He had a chicken once that used to ride in his truck with him, and liked beer.  It would come running when he popped open the can.

“I used to hunt bear with dogs,” he said.  “We didn’t have electronic collars.”

He used to tramp all over the mountains looking for bear instead.

Hunting bears in a pickup truck with dogs that have electronic collars does not seem worse to Mr. Lawrence than canned hunts.  He said if you think about it, the animals inside the fence have a pretty good life and a clean death.  They don’t get hit by cars and they have plenty to eat.

When Bull gets done his apples, Mr. Lawrence mentions that the moose likes beer, too.  He says it’s kind of cold that day, and he might not want one.  But he pops the top and holds up the can of Budweiser just in case.  Sure enough, Bull reaches up to take a swallow.  Pretty soon the can is mostly gone, and Mr. Lawrence finishes it off himself.

“Needless to say my world 100 percent revolves around him,” says Mr. Lawrence.  He said he supposes Bull’s world pretty much revolves around Mr. Lawrence, too.

“Now what pisses me off about these Fish and Game people.  They talk about Vermont tradition.  Vermont tradition is really deer jacking, road hunting, and drinking beer.”

He said he thinks the Fish and Wildlife Department is jealous of Mr. Nelson’s operation because it actually makes money, while the department is short of funds these days.

“They’ve got too many biologists,” he said.

“If the government knew how they could make money, they’d be all over it — the same with marijuana,” he said.

He said canned hunts aren’t for everyone, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it.  But it can be quite challenging to find an animal within the confines of the fence, he said, and he is sometimes called in as a guide.

A lot has changed over the years, Mr. Lawrence said, and there continues to be more pressure on all the habitat.  It’s a problem that’s not going to get any better any time soon.

“The biggest problem in the world right now is overpopulation of people.”

While solutions to all the world’s problems don’t seem to be right at hand, Mr. Lawrence will no doubt continue to ponder them with his friend, Bull the moose, while sharing a jelly doughnut and a Budweiser.


2 responses to “Moose and tortoise

  1. A fun story, Bethany. Thank you for adding your story on David and Bull. I appreciate his perspective that the animals in the Nelson fence have a good life and a “clean” death – no road kill, property damage, or lack of their needs. State of Vt could take some lessons on managing resources – both natural and people – from this responsible free-market/capitalist model. Guess I won’t hold my breath on that. Enjoy the beer, and I’ll enjoy a doughnut!

  2. Madonna Sullivan


    Great stories and photos. Pleased I found your blog. I added it to my favorites. I look forward to reading more.

    Cheers, Madonna

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