In January 2021, Senate bill 281 was introduced which would prohibit the use of hounds as a means to hunt coyotes. Hunting coyotes with hounds has grown in the Northeastern part of the United States in pace with the coyotes firm establishment as an apex predator where once wolves and mountain lions also roamed. Both of those species were eradicated from New England in the early 1900’s, but coyotes migrating eastward interbred with both wolves and domestic dogs to create what is now known as the Eastern coyote. Nowadays in Vermont, like most other states, coyotes can be hunted every day of the year with no bag limit. But it’s the use of hounds especially in winter time where most of the cruelty has been witnessed.
S.281 is currently under consideration by the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee. On February 24 & 25, 2022 the committee heard testimony related to the bill, which is expected to be voted on the week of March 8.
The lack of fair chase, inherent cruelty resulting from pursuing prey dozens of miles, and the conflict created for private landowners by hound trespass have all been cited as reasons for S.281. The Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee has heard testimony from all sides with many supporters of the bill identifying as hunters themselves, but who consider modern hound hunting practices to be highly unethical. Opponents of the restriction on coyote hunting, say this is just part of a nationwide campaign against all hunting, and that hunting coyotes with hounds is only as cruel as nature is towards other animals and ultimately, the Eastern coyote is a pest that kills deer which hunters want instead for themselves.
Wolf Patrol began an investigation into hound hunting of coyotes with hounds in Vermont and last month released a video with some of our findings. Many hound hunters in Vermont use social media sites to share photos and videos. That is where Wolf Patrol found graphic videos from three Vermont residents depicting coyotes being cornered and killed after long chases across deep snow, where hunters with trucks and snowmobiles bring in more dogs as the chase intensifies. One Vermont hound hunter posted pictures of his hounds attacking a bleeding exhausted coyote and another photo of himself standing over the dead animal in a pool of blood.
Wolf Patrol submitted written testimony to the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee, but we wanted to also take a look for ourselves at the growing problem hunting coyotes with hounds has created for Vermont landowners and the public opposed to the cruelty associated with the sport. On February 26th, 2022 I grabbed our cameras and headed to Addison County, where residents have reported multiple conflicts with coyote hunters who trespass and block roads. Since beginning our investigation of coyote hound hunting practices in Vermont, Wolf Patrol has discovered that the practice is quite common in the winter months when no other big game seasons are open.
I was just outside of Shoreham, Vermont, less than a mile from the Lake Champlain shoreline when I came over a hill and saw a hound truck parked in the same direction but on the left side of the narrow dirt road. As I slowed down, a hound wearing a GPS collar popped out of the woods to my right which was clearly posted closed to hunting and trespass. The hound ran past his owner’s truck and back onto posted lands, alongside a clear track left by a coyote fleeing the hound.
Over the next hour, multiple trucks some with hounds were jockeying alongside the roads trying to place themselves in line for a shot, once the pursued coyote crossed the road the hunter’s were watching from their trucks. The antennas from their handheld GPS receivers could be seen in their hands and the hound hunter I spoke too, had his uncased rifle snugly tucked next to his right leg inside the cab of his truck where he could access it quickly. This was the same hounder I filmed standing in the road with his scoped rifle who later retrieved his hound that had come out of the woods where I had seen it cross earlier that morning.
As I drove past the hound hunter with the rifle, he slowed down and raised his hand like he wanted to talk, so I pulled over and he reversed until he was in line with my driver’s side window. He asked if I was filming, and I acknowledged that I was and explained to him the reasons for documenting his hound hunting activities were in support of S.281. We ended our conversation with the hunter saying he could later show me some dead coyotes, but I didn’t encounter him again that day.
S. 281 would prohibit the use of hounds to hunt coyotes, with a proposed amendment authorizing state game wardens to issue one-time only depredation permits where hounds could be used to hunt coyotes that pose a threat to life or property on private lands. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is also proposing stricter conditions and a regulated season on hunting coyotes with hounds, but that does not address the inherent cruelty associated with a sport that allows hunters to use multiple vehicles, GPS-collared packs of hounds, snowmobiles and bait to pursue one animal sometimes for dozens of miles until they can run no longer.
Please write to Vermont’s Natural Resources and Energy Committee today to let them know that you support an outright ban on recreational hunting of coyotes with hounds, which looks more like dog-fighting than hunting. This bill will be voted on in committee the week of March 8th, but it still has a long way to go before it becomes law. Let’s remain vigilant and stand with the coyotes until they are safe from dog hunters in Vermont!
NATURAL RESOURCES & ENERGY COMMITTEE MEMBERS:
Senator Chris Bray firstname.lastname@example.org (802) 453-3444
Senator Rich Westman email@example.com (802) 644-2297
Senator Mark MacDonald firstname.lastname@example.org (802) 272-1101
Senator Brian Campion email@example.com (802) 375-4376
Senator Richard McCormack firstname.lastname@example.org (802) 793-6417
Senator Becca Balint email@example.com (802) 257-4162