Last year, Act 165 (S.281) was signed into law in Vermont creating a moratorium on hunting coyotes with dogs, effective July 1, 2022 (with some exceptions) until the Fish & Wildlife Board adopts rules regulating the practice. The first draft of those proposed regulations is out, after two working group meetings in January 2023 that included stakeholders (predominantly hound hunters) and Vermont Fish & Wildlife officials. The draft regulations will also be open to a public comment process with the possibility of other public meetings to solicit feedback and comments.
The proposed regulations for hunting coyotes with hounds would establish rules similar to those for other “game” animals in Vermont, including a season, but no bag limit. Currently, it is legal to hunt coyotes year-round in Vermont. Past efforts to establish a closed season for coyotes during pup-rearing (March-October) were defeated by the Fish & Wildlife Board in 2019.
Vermont Wolf Patrol has been monitoring the practice of coyote hunting with hounds nationwide for eight years. What we have documented in every state we have investigated (Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Idaho, Montana, Pennsylvania and Vermont) is that inherent and inseparable from the practice are occasions when trained chase dogs attack, bite or maul the tired coyote. Some hound hunters will intentionally wound a coyote allowing their dogs a better chance at getting close and fighting with the wounded coyote.
The proposed regulations favor the sport of modern hound hunting and offer no change from past definitions of control. As is the case with bear hounds, coyote hounds where GPS collars that allow their handlers to see their course and direction. Shock or tone collars that are triggered remotely are argued to be a level of control. What the draft fails to address is, the inability of a hound handler to control their dog with either shock, tone or voice commands once the animal is out of eyesight which is common when hunting coyotes with hounds.
In Vermont, coyote hunting hounds have attacked people and pets when out of sight of their handlers. They’ve also trespassed where hunting was not allowed and invaded resident’s property without permission, despite the use of GPS and shock collars. The draft proposed rules would require maintaining a tracking log of dogs while afield, which is hardly a form of control.
The first draft of Vermont’s proposed regulations to hunt coyotes with dogs.
The proposed rules would also accommodate existing hound hunting practices such as not requiring a permit to hunt coyotes with hounds if you are a “sub-permittee.” Most coyote hunting with hounds is done with multiple hunters aiding and assisting from separate vehicles and snowmobiles and communicating via radio. The rules would only require the owner of the dogs being used to hunt coyote to possess a permit, but not anyone handling or transporting dogs involved in the hunt. Vermont Wolf Patrol believes every individual involved in a hunt should be licensed to hunt that species in that particular fashion. The working group is instead proposing that sub-permittees simply possess a valid hunting license.
On January 5, 2023 Vermont Wolf Patrol wrote to the VFWD Commissioner’s office to ask for clarification on the current moratorium on hunting coyotes with dogs until regulations are adopted, noting the mention of “certain exceptions” in the language of Act 165. This is what we were told:
“Act 165, 2022, states “a person shall not pursue coyote with the aid of dogs, either for the training of dogs or for the taking of coyote, except that a person may pursue coyote with the aid of dogs in defense of a person or property if the person pursuing coyote with the aid of dogs: (1) is the landowner; or (2) has obtained a courtesy permission card from the landowner or landowner’s agent allowing the release of a dog onto the land for the purpose of pursuing coyote with the aid of dogs.”
The law does not require the Warden Service or the Department of Fish & Wildlife to grant an exception, and Act 165 did not require prior permission from anyone other than the landowner suffering damage. The Warden Service is not aware of any exceptions.”
On January 14, 2023 Vermont Wolf Patrol was in on an area where we documented coyote hunting with hounds in winter 2022 in Addison County and again encountered an active hound hunter. At approximately 730am we noticed a vehicle with a hound box driving south on state highway 22A. The vehicle pulled off on a rural road and soon after released three dogs which began running across fields along the road while the hunter continued driving slowly in his vehicle. When the individual noticed our vehicle further down the road and saw us filming, he quickly collected his dogs and sped away.
We do not know whether this individual was indeed hunting coyotes, because he was hunting with dogs in an area regularly hunted for coyotes with dogs, so we reported the incident to VFWD law enforcement.
January 9, 2023 letter from five members of the coyote hunting with dogs working group.
Vermont Wolf Patrol will be monitoring popular areas for coyote hunting with hounds across Vermont and asks anyone who sees any suspicious coyote hound hunting activity to contact Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s Operation Game Thief: