Image: David Lawrence feeds Pete the Moose
Alison Redlich  /  AP
In this May 19, 2010, photo, David Lawrence, of Albany, Vt., feeds Pete the Moose at a game preserve in Irasburg, Vt.
updated 10/21/2011 2:07:20 PM ET 2011-10-21T18:07:20

Vermont officials say they believe they've found the remains of a beloved captive moose, but the carcass is too decomposed to be tested for disease.

Pete the Moose, who became a cause celebre over the state's wildlife regulation, died in early September during tranquilization for hoof trimming. Until a week ago, state officials insisted he was alive. The owner of the hunting park where Pete lived has taken responsibility for covering up Pete's death.

Wildlife officials had been offering different answers where Pete's remains were.

Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Patrick Berry said Thursday that the park owner, Doug Nelson, showed a warden the moose remains. Berry says he can't guarantee it was Pete but it appeared the animal's hooves had been trimmed.

“According to the Nelsons, Pete was the only moose who received this particular grooming care,” Berry wrote in an email, according to the Burlington Free Press.

Berry continued: “The notion that wildlife should not be entrapped and treated as pets seems to be taking hold. What happened to this moose, even when he was alive, was a tragedy, and it was encouraged by thousands of people who I fear have no understanding for the order of nature. Pete wasn’t saved by anyone, and, perhaps, you could say he was killed by misguided kindness.”

Pete's life in captivity helped prompt the state to pass new wildlife laws. Though he died in early September, state officials insisted he was alive until last week, even issuing a photo of a moose it identified as Pete.

The moose in the picture turned out to be a different animal, prompting Pete's Facebook fans to start accusing the state of a cover-up. Berry said Nelson has since admitted that he delayed telling state officials about Pete's death.

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