Trapping, coyote bills advance out of Vt. Senate

Two bills in the Vermont Legislature that were originally set up to ban two hunting practices in the state have been watered down as they exit the Senate.
Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 8:35 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Two bills in the Vermont Legislature that were originally set up to ban two hunting practices in the state have been watered down as they exit the Senate.

Both have created dialogue about trapping in the state and hunting coyotes with hounds. It’s leaving advocacy groups on both sides of the hunting spectrum watching closely.

“It seems like we have reached that middle ground that makes sense,” Vt. Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Chris Herrick said.

Herrick says two Senate bills advancing are reflective of compromise happening in Vermont’s everchanging landscape around hunting.

Both hunting bills -- S.201 and S.281 -- started out as outright bans, eventually getting watered down, leaving Vt. Fish and Wildlife with the task of regulation.

S.201 tackles trapping.

“We’re able to demonstrate that it would be better to move toward best management practice or BMPs,” said Herrick.

Herrick describes that to mean things like the requirement of modern foothold traps, location of traps or regulation around releasing animals.

S.281 tackles coyote hunting with dogs. It’s currently an unregulated but limited practice.

“Rather than an outright ban, that we work to come up with regulations to address the issues that made this a concern,” said Herrick.

Regulations like limited permitting, consideration of a quiet or no-hunt season on coyotes, or trespassing rules to reduce conflict and aid game wardens in enforcement.

There would also be a ban on hunting coyotes until rules would be set.

Protect Our Wildlife Vermont says the outright ban of both practices is what they wanted but they still call these bills progress.

“We don’t think you can regulate cruelty,” said Brenna Galdenzi, the president and co-founder of Protect Our Wildlife Vermont.

Galdenzi compares the hounding of coyotes to dogfighting and says foot-trapping is inhumane.

She says if the legislation passes through the Statehouse, Vermont Fish and Wildlife should take into consideration the views of those against hunting.

“We are really, really counting on you to work for the people of Vermont and not just a group of sportsmen,” said Galdenzi.

On the other end of the hunting spectrum is the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Club. The executive director, Chris Bradley, says he doesn’t oppose some regulation, but he worries these bills, and any in the future, will keep hunters from doing what they’ve always done -- help keep wildlife healthy.

“Wildlife that is healthy. A part of that health is in support of our hunters, fishers and trappers, who are interacting with the landscape and these animals,” said Bradley.

Where both agree though is that as Vermont’s culture changes, conversations like these need to be had. However, they disagree on how much regulation.

Vermont Fish and Wildlife leaders maintain a middle ground can be found for everyone.

“I understand as the department does that Vermont is changing somewhat, and to that degree we need to be aware of what is going on and find that balance. Yes, we want to hear people. We want to hear people who want to have discussions about the science and the factual issues, and on both sides. Let’s leave the emotions out of it,” said Herrick.

Fish and wildlife agencies across the country contributed to a recent survey done as part of an America’s Wildlife Values Project.

It says when it comes to wildlife values in Vermont:

  • 25% believe it should be managed, with practices like hunting.
  • 34% believe animals are part of the social network and should be met with harmony.
  • 29% have differing values depending on context.
  • 12% don’t believe wildlife issues pertain to them.

Both bills are now in committee in the Vermont House.

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