By Guy Page
Vermont has few coyote interactions with people and domestic animals – now. But that could change if the Legislature bans coyote hunting with dogs, a Vermont Fish & Wildlife expert told senators today.
The Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee delayed a vote on S281, a committee-sponsored bill restricting hunting coyotes with dogs, until after the Town Meeting break next week.
As introduced, S281 is an outright ban on using dogs to hunt coyotes: “No person shall pursue coyote with the aid of dogs, either for the training of dogs or for the taking of coyote.” However, the draft under discussion would allow very limited coyote hunting with dogs. Hunters would need specific permission from the landowner, permission from Fish & Wildlife, could only use two dogs, and would have only a week to take action. Permission could only be re-upped one time.
The committee agreed a new draft needed more study. Also, most of the senators said they want to hear from constituents in person next week.
Massachusetts has brief hunting seasons for coyote. In Vermont it’s unregulated, open-season, and year-round. As a result, Vermont has few domestic pet and human interactions with coyotes, Kim Royar, Department of Fish and Wildlife Furbearer Biologist said. Banning “hazing” of coyotes with trained dogs could make coyotes “habituated” with people and their pets, she said.
Homeowners in Massachusetts “have had continual problems with coyotes,” Royar said. “They are smart. They become habituated with people.”
Once a coyote becomes habituated, they become threats to livestock and other animals, she said. “They haven’t figured out that cows are easy pickings. Once they have figured it out, they’re not going to change that behavior.”
A hunted coyote population “equates people with bad things…. they don’t come into suburban areas…..so far, that doesn’t happen all that often.” But once coyotes become habituated, their unwanted interaction with humans and domesticated animals is inevitable, she said.
Committee member Dick McCormick (D-Windsor) expressed concern that the committee would not be able to pass its trifecta of hunting legislation in time for “crossover”, the March date by which all legislation to be considered for passage this year must be passed out of committees of jurisdiction. Not to worry, Chair Chris Bray (D-Addison) told McCormick: bills to eliminate leghold trapping and S129, changing the composition and powers of the Fish & Wildlife Board if necessary can be worked into amendments of House-approved legislation, thus bypassing Crossover.
McCormick appeared to accept Bray’s response, albeit grudgingly – perhaps mindful of recent sessions in which Natural Resources and Energy was unable to vote out long-expected bills on Act 250 reform and other high-priority issues.