New Bill H.323 Would End Hound Hunting for Coyote and Bear in Vermont

On February 22, 2023 An act relating to prohibiting the hunting of bear or coyote with dogs, H.323 was read and referred to the Vermont House Committee on Environment & Energy. The bill would not prohibit the hunting of other game animals and birds with the aid of dogs. The bill was sponsored by Representative Larry Satcowitz (District: Orange-Washington-Addison) who is also a sponsor of H.191 a bill that would ban recreational trapping. There is no date yet known when either bill will be discussed in the Committee on Environment & Energy.

Both H.323 and H.191 address the growing conflict between hound hunters, trappers and landowners and residents opposed to the practices. In recent years, confrontations between Vermont hound hunters and landowners have been filmed and gone viral. Many landowners object to bear hounds on their property, while other residents have been cited for pepper spraying bear hunters legally using hounds. The conflicts have led to other legislation, such as Act 165, related to hunting coyotes with hounds which mandated the establishment of regulations and a season on hunting coyotes with hounds in Vermont.

Please contact your elected representatives and members of the House Environment & Energy Committee to voice your support for the proposed legislation and let them know you do not support the use of free roaming dogs to hunt coyotes or bears.

H.323 As Introduced:

Why Do We Need Wolves in Vermont?

Because they belong here. Wolves, like other native species recently exterminated, were part of the natural fabric of Vermont, long before there ever was a Vermont. Wolves, mountain lions and lynx lived here for not just hundreds, but thousands of years. They did not disappear, they (and the habitat necessary for their survival) were intentionally destroyed to make way for human progress in the form of settlement and livestock.

In the last few centuries, the entire northeastern portion of North America was radically altered to suit the needs of just one species, humans. With the arrival of European explorers came a voracious appetite for fur, which led to the commercial extinction of many forbearing animals desired by markets overseas. Those native forbearing species like the wolf and lynx that survived this initial onslaught were then targeted because they preyed on the domestic livestock that accompanied European settlement.

By the early 1900’s the howl of the wolf had all but vanished from the place we today call Vermont. In their place, over time came other species that could survive on the logged and exhausted landscape. Smaller predators like bobcats and coyotes slowly filled the ecological niche left with the absence of apex predators, but today we are witnessing the impact of this change to our (and animals) environment.

Caribou, elk, wolverine, bison, mountain lions and wolves once called Vermont home.

As has been seen in other former wolf habitat in North America, when wolves are allowed to return, they restore a balance not seen in most of our human lifetime. Rivers, plants and especially native ungulates like deer and moose rely on apex predators to keep a balance that humans alone cannot match. Without natural predation, deer and other prey can become detrimental to their own habitat, over browsing trees and plants necessary for healthy waterways. Without natural predations, disease and starvation become more common among ungulate populations.

Many people, especially sport hunters benefit from the lack of apex predators by finding species like deer more plentiful and easier to hunt as they have lost their fear of natural predation from wolves. In places like Montana, Wisconsin and Michigan where wolves have recently returned or been reintroduced, many hunters claim that wolves are “killing all the deer” but the truth is that wolves in those states still subsist on fewer deer than are killed by humans…and automobiles.

What has changed in those states is the ease hunters once had in killing a deer, elk or moose when those species changed their behavior without the threat of apex predators. Gone are the days when you could go hunting in your tennis shoes and shoot a big buck from the roadside or your heated tree stand over bait. In states where wolves have returned, we have seen a return to what functional ecosystems used to look like before the intentional eradication of some predators.

This slide from Vermont Fish & Wildlife recognizes that wolves were essential as predators for beavers and other animals. In their absence, human trapping is meant to replicate natural predation.

In many states including Vermont, state wildlife agencies work hard to restore native species overexploited by humans. In Vermont, black bears for example have rebounded thanks to efforts of not only state wildlife agencies, but even hunters. But in nature one cannot pick and choose which native animals are allowed to return to healthy numbers because of their popularity today as a huntable “game animal.” We must strive to restore the proper balance that existed before our meddling of the last centuries and not focus only on those animals that again benefit humans.

Humans alone are not the natural apex predator like the wolf. Too often hunters favor killing the strongest and largest deer, elk and moose – not the old and sick or overpopulated. Alone we cannot pretend that healthy ecosystems require only “wildlife management” by licensed recreational hunters, the land and the animals we love to hunt or simply watch need apex predators like the wolf.

Would the return of the wolf to Vermont lead to more predation on livestock and people’s pets? Probably. But predation of non-target animals can be greatly avoided through non-lethal methods like grazing livestock closer to barns and the use of livestock protection animals like certain types of dogs and even donkeys which have been proven to reduce predation on livestock by apex predators. Remember, in Vermont wolves and mountain lions were intentionally eradicated to make way for sheep and other livestock new to our environment.

An incredible 91% of Vermont’s population support the restoration of extirpated species like the wolf!

We are not saying that wolves belong on the landscape and Vermont’s many dairy and sheep farms do not, we simply believe that our restored healthy forests again need natural predators like wolves and lions who can naturally reduce populations of deer and moose currently affected by diseases never before seen in a healthy ecosystem.

When many of us were children, we were taught that the Endangered Species Act was needed to protect native animals from human eradication, with the wolf as a prime example of what should NOT be done to promote and protect our natural environment. And while there are still many opposed to the return of the wolf where their kind has recolonized former habitat, there are so many more who celebrate this wildlife success story.

In Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan for example, the indigenous Anishinaabe inhabitants revere the wolf as a brother who was delivered by the Creator to help us all survive. They believe that what happens to the wolf will happen to them and view the return of the wolf as an indication that humans have learned a valuable lesson about survival and coexistence.

A NY hound hunter reported this possible wolf sighting in Vermont in 2019.

Now it is our turn. Will you join us in welcoming the wolf back to Vermont? Are you willing to alter some of your behavior when visiting our forests so there is again room for another native inhabitant to this beautiful place we also call home? Will you also rejoice and yourself feel a part of your spirit restored when you again hear the howl of a wolf in Vermont?

On February 15, 2023, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board will be addressing a petition regarding the protection of large canids including wolves. Click on the link below to see the agenda and tune into the 02/15/23 presentation:

Are you ready to welcome the return of the wolf to Vermont?

Bill to End Recreational Trapping Introduced in Vermont

A beaver carries a branch in a river in France. Photo: Louis-Marie Preau

On February 6, 2023 H.191 was introduced in the Vermont House of Representatives as a bill that would “prohibit the trapping of fur-bearing animals unless the person trapping is authorized to trap in order to defend property or agricultural crops or the trapping is conducted by a licensed nuisance wildlife control operator.” With the support of 24 additional Representatives, if passed into law H.191 would effectively end trapping for recreation and profit in Vermont.

Last month, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department (VFWD) released its report to the Legislature on the agency’s response to Act 159, which directed the VFWD to recommend improvements to existing trapping practices in Vermont. The report includes minimal changes to current trapping practices, while introducing best management practices (BMPs) to trapping that require traps that are tested to prove their ability to kill within 300 seconds. VFWD report includes a budget for replacing the traps owned by licensed trappers which is $300,000 to $400,000 of which portions are expected to come from public funds.

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board will be meeting in Montpelier on March 15, 2023 to vote on the current recommended changes to trapping practices in Vermont. Please visit their website to learn more about the proposed changes and for how you can act in defense of Vermont’s furbearers!

House Bill 191 as Introduced

Fish & Wildlife Asks Legislature for $400,000 to Buy Vermont Trappers New Body-Grip & Foot-Hold Traps

Fishers are one of the most trapped species in Vermont
Vermont Wolf Patrol’s 01/27/23 investigation of traps along the D&H Trail outside of West Pawlet, Vermont.

In June 2022, Act 159 An act relating to best management practices in trapping was signed into law in Vermont. Act 159 directed the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department (VFWD) to “modernize” trapping in the state and improve animal welfare for the thousands of beavers, fishers, otters and other animals legally trapped each year in Vermont. In January 2023, VFWD presented its Report to the Legislature including recommendations to establish “best management practices” (BMPs) including replacing trappers traps with approved BMP traps.

The effort to establish BMPs for trapping has been the work of the fur industry for decades in an effort to minimize the suffering endured by hundreds of thousands of animals that are trapped for their fur each year. Faced with global opposition to trapping, organizations like the Fur Institute of Canada and the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies were established to support research into trapping methods that reduced animal suffering. Ironically, this research involves using live animals in kill-tests where animals are intentionally crushed in traps.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife wants you to support research on better killing methods for recreational trappers.

VFWD’s recommendations to improve trapping in Vermont include support and funding for continued BMP research into every new model of trap produced on the open market, in order to determine its efficiency in “humanely” killing animals. Current standards for BMP body-gripping traps like those used by Vermont’s Agency of Transportation and recreational trappers in state are that they must kill an animal within five minutes in 70% of the experiments conducted with the same trap.

Act 159 also instructed the Commissioner of Fish & Wildlife to come up with a budget for replacing the traps currently used by Vermont’s 400 licensed trappers with BMP traps. In their report, VFWD says, “The total cost to provide reimbursement for replacement of current systems with BMP-sanctioned trapping systems for roughly 400 trappers is estimated at between $300,000 and $400,000.”

A Corinth pet killed in an illegally set body-grip trap in December 2022.

Act 159 began as a bill to ban trapping. It has now become a state funded effort to improve the public image of trapping, including using our tax dollars to buy new traps that will continue to crush and drown wildlife and occasionally someone’s pet. If VFWD has its way with the Legislature, the biggest improvement to trapping in Vermont to come from Act 159 will be that it will pay for thousands of new body-gripping and foot-hold traps that will be legally and illegally used in Vermont.

Please contact Vermont’s Senate Committee on Natural Resources and politely let them know you do not support the use of public funds to purchase traps designed solely to kill wildlife.

Chair, Senator Christopher Bray

Vice-Chair, Senator Anne Watson

Senator Dick McCormack

Senator Mark A. MacDonald

Senator Becca White

Committee Assistant Jude Newman

(802) 828-2296

Also, Let VFWD know you do not approve their recommended improvements to trapping in Vermont!

please email  subject line “BMP Trapping Recommendations.”

An illegally set foot-hold trap found five feet off the D&H Trail in West Pawlet, Vermont on 01/27/23.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife Response to Act 159 Report to the Legislature

Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department Says 13 Pets Were Caught in Traps in 2022

Clara was a 3-year-old Shetland sheepdog. Her December 2022 death in a body-gripping trap in South Corinth is still under investigation.

At a September 2022 meeting to draft best management practices for trapping in Vermont. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department (VFWD) presented information on the “incidental” trapping of domestic pets in the state. VFWD staff explained that there was no central database in the state for recording such events, although state law requires licensed trappers to report anytime someone’s pet is accidentally trapped in Vermont. Reports are also made to local police departments or not made at all when the traps are illegally set as some were in 2022.

September 20, 2022 warden report on an illegal trap that seriously injured a cat in Bellow Falls, Vermont.

Of the 13 reported cases, most involved foot-hold traps that left only minor injuries to dogs that were accompanied by their owners in most of the cases when they stepped into traps. Unfortunately in other cases, most often involving body-gripping traps that are intended to crush their victims, the pets died or suffered serious injuries. The most recent case involving a body-gripping trap occurred in December 2022 in South Corinth, when a resident saw her dog she was walking caught in an illegally set body-gripping trap. The animal died in the owners arms. This is the same style of trap that conforms to proposed “best management practices” (BMPs) VFWD is currently proposing as improvements to modern trapping.

Body-gripping trap that seriously injured cat in Bellow Falls, Vermont.

In another incident on October 31, 2022 police dispatchers received a call about a dead dog hanging in a tree in Underhill. Body-gripping traps set for fisher are placed at least 5 feet above the ground in trees to deter, but not prevent dog captures. The investigating warden stated, “Dog killed in legally set trap. No F&W violation.”

The 13 reported cases of a dog or cat in a trap in Vermont in 2022:

January 1, Lyndon: Dog’s paw injured in illegally set foot-hold trap set by a 13-year-old. No citation.

July 24, Hartford: Cat caught in cage trap. No injuries. No citation.

August 8, Bellows Falls: Cat seriously injured in illegally set body-gripping cat. Trapper not found. No citation.

August 26, Colchester: Cat caught in legally placed foot-hold trap. No injuries. No citation.

September 9, Bennington: Dog caught in illegally set foot-hold trap. No injuries. Trapper not found. No citation.

October 17, Lowell: Dog suffers minor injuries in foot-hold trap. Trapper cited for unrelated trapping violations.

October 31, Underhill: Dog killed in legally set body-gripping trap for fisher. No citation.

November 1, Starksboro: Dog caught in legally set foot-hold trap. No injuries. No citation.

November 29, Pownal: Dog caught in foot-hold trap. No details. Still under investigation.

December 8, Dog suffers minor injuries in illegally set foot-hold trap. Trapper not identified. No citation.

December 18, Windsor: Dog caught in legally set foot-hold trap. No injuries. No citation.

December 20, Corinth: Dog killed in illegally set body-gripping trap. Trapper not identified. Still under investigation.

December 26, Wardsboro: Dog caught in legally set foot-hold trap. No injuries. No citation.

VFWD records taken from licensed trapper surveys in 2017-2021 record 35 reports of incidental dog or cat captures, 25 dogs and 10 cats. The majority involved foot-hold traps that left only injuries, but 4 involved body-gripping traps with at least two being fatal. The recently released reports for 2022 of 13 pets being caught in traps is higher than the average for the 4 years previously recorded by VFWD.

Data collected from the state’s 289 licensed trappers, Courtesy Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

Current proposed improvements to trapping in Vermont would still allow body-gripping traps and only require traps on land to be set off of trails and roads 50 feet. The rules would exclude traps set underwater, sometimes referred to by trappers as drowning sets. These include a foot-hold trap set inches underwater when a beaver is the target species. The trap is connected to an anchored cable that drags the beaver underwater where they are eventually drowned. Body-gripping traps are also commonly used just under the surface of the water and will still be allowed to be used immediately off of roads and trails in Vermont.

A legal foot-hold trap used in a drowning set for beaver outside of Orange, Vermont

Beavers can hold their breath for up to 15 minutes, but VFWD’s proposed BMP improvements assure the public that the beaver, otter and fisher caught in improved BMP body-gripping traps like those set for beaver, otter and fisher, die within 5 minutes 70% of the time in experiments with live animals. These experiments are a necessary phase of BMP research according to VFWD.

December 2022 VFWD warden report an a illegal trap that caught a dog outside of Bennington, Vermont.

Will Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s proposed improvements to trapping end the incidental capture of dogs and cats in Vermont? Absolutely not. Between 2017 and 2022, over 60% of all reported domestic animal captures occurred in legally set traps and did not result in any violation of trapping laws. The data collected from licensed trappers reflects that accidentally catching dogs and cats is simply a reality of modern regulated trapping that no agency can promise will not occur as long as trapping is legal.

This companion animal was killed in an illegal body-gripping trap set in December 2022 in South Corinth, Vermont.

There is no such thing as a discriminating trap that always catches the animal it was intended for. Most of the dogs caught in foot-hold traps in Vermont escape uninjured, but body-gripping traps designed to kill (within 5 minutes) that will continue to be legally set for beaver, otter and fisher and remain a danger for our pets.

October 2022 report on trapping violations discovered during investigation of a dog caught in a foot-hold trap in Lowell, Vermont.

Please join Vermont Wolf Patrol in calling for an outright ban on the use of lethal body-gripping traps and drowning sets. These trapping methods are beyond any hope of improvement. These are systems designed to kill an animal while not damaging its fur. Vermont’s wildlife is far more valuable ecologically than it is for a trapper who’s lucky to get twenty bucks for a beaver with today’s fur prices. Please email Natural Resources Committee Chair, Senator Christopher Bray and VFWD.

A dog was caught in this foot-hold trap that was illegally set directly off a trail outside of Bennington, Vermont on September 9, 2022.

VFWD Trapping BMP Draft Recommendations and Stakeholder Recommendation Synopsies

Please email Vermont Fish & Wildlife: 

with the subject line “BMP Trapping Recommendations.”

To send comments to Chair of the Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Christopher Bray please email:

Coyote Hunting with Dogs Will Continue in Vermont… Only Regulated

Hound hunter outside of Addison, Vermont suspected of violating the moratorium on hunting coyotes with dogs January 14, 2023

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.

A Vermont hound hunter’s January 14, 2023 post on Facebook.

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.

Hound hunter Terance Wilbur of Wallingford, VT posted this picture on Facebook in January 2022.

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.

Another photo shared by Vermonter Terance Wilbur on Facebook.

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:


Vermont’s Proposed Trapping “Best Management Practices” Would Still Allow Traps That Take Up to 5 Minutes to Kill

On January 15, 2023 the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife (VTFW) will report to the state Legislature on their progress to establish “best management practices that modernize trapping” and improve the welfare of wildlife taken with the use of traps. According th VTFW’s website, the process to establish these improvements was initiated June 1, 2022, and a first set of draft recommended regulation changes became available on November 22, 2022. (see below)

Most BMP approved body-gripping traps are tested via computer simulation, but final tests still require live animals according to AFWA.

In partnership with the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, a pro-trapping organization that promotes best management practices in trapping through ongoing animal research on new and existing lethal traps, VTFW is proposing recommendations that would encourage the use of traps in Vermont that still take up to five minutes to kill, beavers, otters, fishers, mink and sometimes pets.


“Body-gripping” styles of traps currently used in Vermont would still be allowed under VTFW’s proposed recommendations. According the AFWA’s furbearer specialist during a public presentation in South Royalton in November 2022, an improved humane lethal trap must be able to kill its victim within 300 seconds during 70% of the controlled animal tests conducted at a fur industry supported lab in Alberta, Canada. 

“Body-gripping” styles of traps currently used in Vermont would still be allowed under VTFW’s draft proposed recommendations. According the AFWA’s furbearer specialist during a public presentation in South Royalton in November 2022, an improved humane lethal trap must be able to kill its victim within 300 seconds during 70% of the controlled animal tests conducted at a fur industry supported lab in Alberta, Canada. 

According to a principal researchers conducting those controlled experiments, if a trapped animal shows signs of life after 5 minutes of being crushed in a body-gripping trap, it is euthanized. Anything less than five minutes means the trap adheres to AFWA & VTFW’s improved animal welfare standards.

VFWD Trapping BMP Draft Recommendations and Stakeholder Recommendation Synopsies

Modern trapping practices in use in Vermont include the use of body-gripping traps that take minutes to kill their victims. VTFW’s proposal is that these traps simply be placed 50 feet off of marked trails. Regardless of where they are placed, they will continue to cause unspeakable suffering to ecologically important wildlife and even Vermonters beloved dogs.

Vermont Wolf Patrol believes 5 minutes is too long for any animal to suffer in a trap in Vermont. 

Act 159 requires by law that VTFW “work with the Legislature and the Fish and Wildlife Board to establish best management practices that modernize trapping and improve the welfare of wildlife taken with the use of traps.” We do not believe VTFW’s current proposed draft recommendations to trapping in Vermont accomplished that at all. Any establishment of best management practices for trapping in Vermont should not include body-gripping traps or support for research into whether they can kill within 5 minutes.

Please contact the Chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee and Vermont Fish & Wildlife and let them know you do not support the current proposed recommendations to improve trapping in the state unless they exclude the use of body-gripping traps.

To send comments to Chair of the Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Christopher Bray please email:

To send VFWD comments, please email:  subject line “BMP Trapping Recommendations.”

A trapper contracted by Vermont’s Agency of Transportation shows a body-gripping trap he uses to trap beaver for the state.

Trapper Hired by VT Agency of Transportation Was Cited in 2022 After Live Fisher Was Found with Trap on Its Face

A fisher found walking on a Vermont snowmobile trail in January 2022 with this trap on his face. Current VTFWD trapping recommendations would allow animals up to five minutes to die in such traps in order to be considered humane.

On January 21, 2022 Vermont’s Agency of Transportation, (VTrans) signed a contract with two trappers to kill beavers and other wildlife that damage or threaten culverts and roads across Vermont. VTrans is the public agency responsible for the maintenance of a statewide transportation network that includes bridges and highways and like all Vermonters, we all grateful to them for that. Unfortunately, the agency also employs trappers who use cruel body-gripping and foothold traps that are meant to either drown or kill their victims in ways that often last for minutes.

In October 2022, one of the two VTrans contracted trappers was dispatched to place traps for beaver outside of Orange, Vermont where beavers have sometimes blocked culverts under state highway 302. Landowners and caretakers for the land who were on site alerted VTrans employees present that the private property was posted closed to trapping, but were later told by both VTrans and Vermont Fish & Wildlife (VTFW) wardens that a right of way purchased in 1967 allowed VTrans to trap up to 50 feet off of the highway.

Underwater foothold trap meant to drown beaver set outside of Orange, Vermont in October 2022.

A public records request was made by Vermont Wolf Patrol that identified the trappers hired by VTrans and additional investigating uncovered two incidents involving the trapper that were investigated by wardens in the last year, one resulting in a citation and fine.

On January 25, 2022 a VTFWD warden was alerted to an incident outside of Troy, Vermont involving a fisher that was found by a snowmobiler with a trap on its face. The wardens report details the incident when the individual first saw the fisher walking with the trap stuck to his face, saying they were able to pick up the animal. After being unable to contact VTFWD wardens, the individual shot the fisher because they believed it to be suffering. The warden later reported that the fishers injuries were not survivable.

The warden’s January 2022 report.

In May, the same VTrans trapper reported to VTFWD that they had trapped a river otter out of season in a culvert trap set for nuisance beaver outside of Jay, Vermont. Such instances when a non-target animal is caught in a trap are referred to as “incidental catches” and are allowable by law. Body-gripping traps such as those used by VTrans trappers are also responsible for killing at least two Vermont pets in 2022 according to VTFWD law enforcement.

Vermont Wolf Patrol is asking VTrans to observe a moratorium on the use of body-gripping and foot-hold traps until better management practices can be put in place that include the use of nonlethal deterrents such as beaver “deceivers” and baffles. We believe that the use of traps that take up to five minutes to kill their victims is not the solution to any wildlife conflict in Vermont.

Vermont’s wildlife deserves better than this. This is a “humane trap” according to VTFWD in their current draft reccomendations to improve trapping standards in Vermont.

Please contact Vermont’s Secretary of Transportation and let him know you do not support the use of cruel and inhumane traps in Vermont!

Secretary of Transportation
Joe Flynn
219 N. Main Street, Barre, VT 05641

Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department Survey Shows Majority of Vermonters Oppose Trapping for Fun or Profit

It is legal to recreationally trap and sell fisher pelts from Vermont on the international fur market. Photo: Front Porch Forum

Last year, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department (VFWD) contracted with a leading natural resource survey firm, Responsive Management, to conduct a survey of Vermont residents’ knowledge and opinions of the department and their current furbearer conservation efforts. On November 29, 2022 VFWD received the final telephone survey report, which was conducted in October. VFWD staff says they will be analyzing the results from this science-based research project for many months to come and that the findings will be, “used to inform VFWD current and future furbearer management and outreach efforts.”

VFWD’s key takeaways from the survey include the claim that the majority of Vermonters support regulated trapping. But when those same Vermonters were asked whether they supported trapping for fur for clothing, recreation or “to make money” the majority in all three categories opposed the practice with as high as 73% of those surveyed saying they opposed trapping for recreation.

Please view the complete survey below…

Another takeaway from the survey revealed that when asked about furbearer species in their area, over 70% of Vermonters said they enjoyed the presence of wildlife and when asked about population numbers being too high, too low or “about right,” the majority chose about right.

In questioning how Vermonters spend their time outdoors, 69% said they enjoyed hiking and using trails while only 4% said they trapped. This might explain why 13 companion animals were caught in traps set for wildlife in 2022. At least two died.

This survey leaves Vermont Wolf Patrol wondering. Why is the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department spending so much money and time trying to convince us that trapping in still an accepted practice? Current reforms (which would only be recommendations) would ask that trappers use only “best management practices” traps that have been proven in a laboratory setting to kill an animal within five minutes. We believe the vast majority of Vermonters are against such animal cruelty whether its for tradition, for profit or fun.

In January 2022, this fisher was found walking on a snowmobile trail with this trap on its face near Troy, Vermont. The trap was illegally set by a state contracted trapper who was later cited and fined $350 for “taking fisher out of season.”

Join Vermont Wolf Patrol in asking our elected representatives to introduce and support legislation which would ban trapping for fun and profit. Currently, a Vermont Fur Buyers License allows all licensed Vermont trappers to sell their trapped pelts on the international fur markets where the largest buyers are Russia and China.

For centuries, trappers in Vermont have participated in the international fur trade through the sale of trapped animals such as beaver and fisher (both species were historically wiped out in the state after centuries of unregulated trapping) Nowadays, a licensed trapper will be lucky to get $20 for a beaver pelt. Today’s fur market pays less than $10 for a coyote or fox pelt. Trappers contend they help manage “furbearer” populations, but most of today’s recreational and for profit trapper will only trap what they can sell.

Beavers, trapped for centuries are now being recognized as ecological engineers who can aid in our fight against climate change.

We recognize that trapping might have once played an integral part in Vermont’s history, but today, many Vermonters believe the native animals that have been trapped and sold for hundreds of years, are far more ecologically valuable alive than as a few bucks in a trappers pocket.

Legislation ending recreational and for profit trapping would hardly have an impact on Vermont trappers. According to another Responsive Management survey and reported by the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies in their conservation brief, “Regulated Trapping and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation” regulated fur trapping generates very little money for the individual trapper (~$1,700/year) and in fact 80% of trappers surveyed say, “the income is not at all important.”

Vermonters! Please contact your elected officials and let them know you support a ban on recreational and for profit trapping.

Don’t forget! You can also let VTFWD know that allowing an animal up to five minutes to die in a Vermont trap does not make it humane!  with the subject line “BMP Trapping Recommendations.”

Vermont’s Proposed Trapping Changes Involve Lab Tests With Traps to Prove They Can Kill Within 5 Minutes

In June 2022, Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed into law Act 159 which requires the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to work with the Legislature and the Fish and Wildlife Board to establish best management practices that modernize trapping and improve the welfare of wildlife taken with the use of traps in Vermont. The process to establish these best management practices was initiated in June 2022, and a first draft of recommended regulation changes became available on November 22, 2022 (below)

According to the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), In the past several decades, state and provincial wildlife agencies in the U.S. and Canada have spent over $40 million on trap research and promotion of humane trapping methods. In the U.S., this program is known as Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Trapping in the United States.  

The current Act 159 draft recommendations to improve trapping are based on “peer reviewed national scientific research” and stakeholder feedback gathered in 2022. A public meeting was held in South Royalton on November 29, 2022 to solicit more public feedback and a report to the Legislature is due January 15, 2023.  The department will begin the actual rule making process with the Fish and Wildlife Board in February or March 2023.

Video recording of VTF&W public meeting on November 28, 2022 to take public comment on trapping recommendations.

From VTF&W’s November 2022 draft trapping recommendations:

Objective: To improve trapping and trapping systems for animal welfare, selectivity, and safety in accordance with the findings of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ (AFWA) decades-long scientific research effort into the Best Management Practices (BMPs) for trapping.

At the Royalton meeting, presentations were made by representatives of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, the organization that promotes best management practices in trapping that include lethal research on animals like beavers, pine martens and fishers. In the presentation, Bryant White, AFWA’s Trapping Policy Program Manager broke down the methods used to determine the killing efficiency of traps including those currently used in Vermont. He said the goal of their lethal research is to kill the research animals used in the experimental traps as quickly as possible, with an acceptable level of 300 seconds (five minutes.) White also stated that they must conduct these experiments on at least 20 individuals of each species for which traps are being evaluated and that most times the sample group is larger. Because the AFWA animal welfare perimeters are too difficult to measure in the field, White said the trap tests must be conducted in a laboratory setting.

Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies slides on trapping BMPs used at November public meeting.

A quote from AFWA’s introduction to trapping BMPs:

We are indebted to the Fur Institute of Canada (FIC) for providing valuable information on the animal welfare of furbearers captured in bodygrip traps and the mechanical attributes of both bodygrip and foothold traps. Their research has provided the information needed for inclusion of many important trapping devices in the respective BMPs and would have been practically impossible to obtain otherwise.

The Fur Institute of Canada (website: is a fur industry organization whose mission is to improve the image of trapping. Their website is full of articles attacking the animal rights group, PETA and opposition to the promotion of a vegan diet and lifestyle. FIC contracts with the provincial government research agency, Innotech Alberta to conduct its trap experiments. Here is what the Fur Institute of Canada has to say about its VTF&W Department supported research program in Canada:

The Institute’s Vegreville Alberta research facility was completed in 1984 at a cost of over $l million. It was specifically designed to enable teams of scientists, engineers, statisticians and technicians to scientifically measure and improve the welfare of animals related to trapping and to advance trap testing methods. All animals housed in the research facility for the testing of traps are cared for and used in accordance with the requirements of the Canadian Council on Animal Care that oversees the use of animals in research and testing...The Institute’s program places Canada as the world leader in trap research.

According to FIC, advancements in computer simulation models have led to 90% of the trap research they do at the Vegreville facility to be with computer simulations, yet they admit that models have only been developed for a few of the many species they conduct trap research on. BMPs currently exist for all North American furbearer species except for wolverine, that testing is in progress according to AFWA.

At the Royalton presentation, a VTF&W furbearer biologist stated that some of the data for trap research was recently gathered in the field by Vermont trappers. Developing BMPs for trapping is an ongoing project as research is required as new models of traps are developed. Each new trap will undergo field testing before it is taken to the laboratory. The development of computer models and field testing of new traps does not eliminate the need for live animal laboratory testing during the final stages of trap research according to AFWA.

A researcher testing a body-gripping trap at the Vegreville fur research facility in Alberta, Canada. While some of the research on traps involves computer simulations, live animal experiments are still required to determine kill efficiency.

Not much information is available on the lethal trap research used to establish BMP standards, but this is what we know of past experiments. Between 1985 and 1998, over 170 lethal trap tests were conducted on raccoon, marten and fisher by the “Trap Effectiveness Project” at the Vegreville facility led by Neal Jotham. Below is his breakdown of the trap experiments:

“Phase I: Furbearers that are acclimated to their new surroundings are monitored remotely by state-of-the-art night television cameras as they approach selected traps and trap sets.

Phase II: The traps at this stage fire when triggered by the animal but the killing bar is wired to move only a short distance without striking. Later observations of slow motion video by the researchers can allow them to project where the bar would most likely have struck the animal’s body. These observations can be used to evaluate the trap design, thereby capitalizing on the behaviour of the animal as it approaches the trap.

Phase III: When a stipulated number of animal/trap approaches are deemed to have resulted in a successful strike, the trap is moved to pre-selection where the same animals are anaesthetized and placed in the exact position they were in during the approach phase. The trap is then remotely triggered to strike them. Under the anaesthetic, an animal can feel no pain but its eye reflex can still be monitored to determine consciousness. The eye reflex is monitored for up to five minutes and if it exists at that point, the animal is humanely euthanized (killed).

This Phase of the program informs the researchers whether the mechanical forces in the particular trap are likely to be strong enough to kill the specific animal within three minutes before proceeding to the kill/test with unanesthetized animals. Should the trap not render the stipulated number of animals unconscious within the three-minute test time parameter, it may be re-evaluated for possible engineering improvements and resubmitted to the pre-selection phase.

Phase IV: When a trap successfully passes Phase III, it is then set in the compound as it would be on the trapline for kill-test. Once again, a stipulated number of animals (this time unanaesthestized) must be successfully killed during this phase. Failure at this stage sends the trap back for further evaluation and possible modification. If successful during the first four phases, which are considered the screening phases, the trap is ready for performance confirmation (Phase V), where further kill-tests are carried out to raise the statistical level of confidence that the animals on the trapline will be killed humanely.”

From the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables, Nova Scotia, Canada:

Vermont Wolf Patrol is opposed to the use of live animals in research to determine the humaneness of traps designed to kill wildlife and other animals. Inflicting pain and suffering on one animal to hopefully minimize suffering of others is not what the citizens of Vermont wanted when we voiced our support for Senate bill 201 which when introduced was a proposed ban on trapping in the state. Organizations like the Fur Institute of Canada and the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies were created in part to dissuade any limit or ban on trapping with research that would convince us that it is necessary and humane.

According to VTF&W law enforcement, 13 pets were caught in traps set for furbearers in 2022, causing at least two deaths. We are asking citizens and visitors of the state to contact their elected officials and the VTF&W department to let them know you do not support the research being conducted on live animals to improve trapping standards. No amount of money and no amount of research will ever change the fact that lethal traps are cruel and inhumane to pets and wildlife.


PLEASE REMEMBER!!! Vermont Fish & Wildlife will begin the rule making process for these recommendations with the Fish and Wildlife Board in February or March 2023. The Board will host another public meeting as part of that process. If you would like to send comments at any point in this process, please email: with the subject line “BMP Trapping Recommendations.”

Coyote in a Best Management Practices approved foothold trap.