Vermont S.281 Passes Senate Committee…Would Regulate Not Ban Coyote Hunting with Hounds

January 2022 photo shared on Facebook by a hound hunter from Wallingford, Vermont

What began as a proposed bill that would ban outright the hunting of coyotes with hounds in Vermont, has instead become proposed legislation that would limit the number of hunters and require Vermont’s Fish & Wildlife Department to establish regulations on the winter time activity. In recent years, conflicts between hound hunters and landowners and outdoor recreationists have increased in Vermont, leading to legislators introducing S.281 in February 2022.

S.281 as passed by Vermont’s Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee on 03/11/22

The bill has received overwhelming public support, after numerous organizations including Wolf Patrol exposed multiple incidents involving cruelty on the part of Vermont’s hound hunters. Vermont’s Fish & Wildlife Department saw the direction legislators were taking and quickly proposed changes that they have for years refused to implement. Only because of the fear of a total ban on coyote hunting with hounds, has the agency now promised to address this crisis for wildlife and people in Vermont.

Snowmobile used in conjunction with hounds by a Troy, Vermont hound hunter January 2022

The bill still has to go through a rule making process that is currently controlled by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board, which lacks representation from nonconsumptive wildlife users and is mostly comprised of hunters, trappers and those unwilling to listen to the majority of Vermonters opposed to coyote hunting with hounds. The bill must also be signed into law by Republican Governor Phil Scott.

Senators Chris Bray & Richard McComack discussing dissatisfaction with S.281 after it’s passage

Wolf Patrol believes the spirit of this bill has been changed by VTF&W’s amendments which would still allow free roaming coyote hounds to cross onto lands where they are not welcomed. The amendments allow such trespass to occur, only establishing penalties for it and making it the responsibility of landowners to notify coyote hound hunters that they are not welcome.

Vermont hound hunters with recently killed coyotes

We also believe that 100 hound hunters using free roaming dogs to hunt coyotes during winter is simply an unmanageable number, given the current limits on the ability of VTF&W wardens to monitor this activity in the entire state of Vermont. Each permitted license holder would still be allowed to have assistance by other hound hunters working in tandem from vehicles and snowmobiles. This means that allowing 100 permits would actually still authorize hundreds more hunters to assist the individual licensed coyote hunter.

While this bill is a first step in preventing coyote hunters with hounds from trespassing on private property, it still does not adequately address the cruelty caused when even one hunting hound is allowed to chase to exhaustion another dog, making the animal more susceptible to attack and mauling, as has been documented occurring within the state of Vermont during the practice of coyote hunting with hounds.  

Truck, snowmobile and hound used by a Troy, Vermont hound hunter

These are the changes to S.281 we are asking our supporters to ask their legislators to request VTF&W make when adopting new rules governing the hunting of coyotes with hounds:

  1. A reduction in the number of permits allowed from 100 to 31, which reflects the number of actual VTF&W conservation officers (wardens) available to patrol coyote hunting with hounds in the state of Vermont.
  2. A lottery system similar to that used for moose permits for the distribution of permits, not distibuted “at the discretion of the Commissioner” as the current language states.
  3. A definition of “control” that does not only require GPS/shock/tone collars which still allow hounds to be out of the sight of their handlers.
  4. A requirement that all coyote hunters using hounds obtain written permission from private landowners whether the lands are legally posted or not.
  5. A limit on the number of dogs used to pursue coyote that is one and the adoption of the proposed prohibition on the substitution of any new dog for another dog during pursuit of coyote.
  6. No baiting. This only encourages conflicts with coyotes rather than addressing them. 
A Vermont hound hunt for coyotes 2021