Lawmakers question proposed Fish & Wildlife regs for hunting coyotes, trapping

By Michael Bielawski

The state’s Fish and Wildlife Department is at odds with the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) over proposed regulations for hunting coyotes with dogs and trapping.

Acts 159 and 165, passed by the Legislature in 2022, require the state to rewrite rules for trapping and Coyote hunting respectively. It became the task of the Fish and Wildlife Department to write the rules according to the new standards.

LCAR is the legislative committee charged with ensuring regulations match the intent of the legislation that created them. Rep. Mark Higley, R-Lowell, who is on LCAR, spoke with VDC on Friday morning about the conflict.

“It came to a head yesterday [Thursday] after a number of other meetings and we finally took a vote and I certainly was not supportive of what a majority of LCAR did,” Higley said. “it was basically a 6-to-2 vote, myself and Senator Weeks [Sen. David Weeks, R-Rutland] voting against what they were looking to do.”

LCAR is suggesting proposed rules that have already been considered and ruled out by the Fish and Wildlife Department.

“They are asking them again to consider certain things under the trapping requirements and the hunting with hounds for coyotes requirements,” Higley said. “The board had already considered, in other words LCAR had already reached out with those concerns and they discussed it at one of their meetings and they came back not supportive of the four conditions.”

Disagreements on coyote hunting

The four points that the two groups are disagreeing on include whether hunting dogs during coyote hunting should be within eyesight/shouting distance at all times during the hunt. Hunters argue that’s an impossible request considering the nature of these hunts.

“Even the Department head said that those conditions that they are looking for would be a defacto ban on hunting coyotes with dogs by what they are looking for,” Higley said.

Higley noted that the dogs are already required to have radio-controlled collars and other requirements.

Disagreements on trapping

The other three disagreements concern trapping. One point of contention is whether trapping should formally be considered a form of hunting or not. LCAR says no, trappers say it is.

“There is a Constitutional protection for hunting and if trapping is in that, of course they [the majority of LCAR] don’t like that,” Higley said. He also noted that a leader of the Abenaki tribe declared trapping a form of hunting during Chief Jaime Taylor’s testimony on the matter.

Another point of disagreement is the setback requirements for traps.

“LCAR wanted a broader definition [of what constitutes a trail], they wanted a catch-all for basically any trail that was used by the public, to include “all trails where persons may be reasonably expected to recreate,” Higley said.

He said the Department had some concerns with this.

“They said that’s a tough thing to enforce, how are you going to enforce any of these trails that people may be reasonably expected to recreate on,” Higley said. “Does that mean that a logging road that two people use in a summer, what does that actually mean and how is that enforceable?”

He said the Fish and Wildlife Board came up with a standard that was if the trail is well-marked with signage, then that would constitute a trail, but LCAR didn’t settle for that.

“They wanted it further defined more broadly,” he said.

Another issue of division also concerned the setbacks. The Fish and Wildlife Board wants an exception to the 50-foot set back standard in instances where the trap is under water or ice. LCAR wouldn’t accept that either.

“Those are the four conditions that LCAR drafted again for the Board to consider which they’ve already considered in my mind,” he said.

Higley said the folks at Fish and Wildlife will have 14 days [from when the notice sent from LCAR] to respond.

The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle and the Burlington Daily News

Categories: Outdoors, State Government

5 replies »

  1. Big shocker, the LCAR can’t take advice from the people in the know, on the ground that actually trap and or hunt with dogs. I don’t envy those in Fish and Wildlife trying to make these new laws as reasonable as possible to follow. This Vermont doesn’t want hunters or trappers anymore. We are a dying breed.

  2. Coyotes are a nonnative, invasive species in Vermont. Why should they be treated any differently than Zebra Mussels, Eurasian Milfoil, Emerald Ash Borers, Asian Grass Carp, Norwegian Rats, feral hogs, etc., because some people see them as cute, soft, fuzzy little doggies ? Out west where they are native, they are treated like what they in fact are, vermin. Funny how when they come east, the fruity urbanites transform them into something different. This is in fact about all hunting. The most dangerous non native invasive species occupies about 2/3rds of the seats in the State House, and they don’t like hunting, and therein lies the rub. If you want to stop hunting, the textbook way is to divide, and conquer. Start with the most vulnerable, least utilized aspect, trapping. Once you have legislated that out of existence, step two would be the ancient sport of hunting with dogs. After that probably archery. Does anybody think that the anti-hunting groups will ever be happy until they have legislated hunting to the point that there is nothing left to hunt legally, or nothing to hunt with ? These people would like you to think that they are “conservationists”. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are “preservationists”. Conservations are all for managing a renewable resource for the good of all. Preservationists, not so much. (to say the least!) Right now there are more of almost any large game animal that I am aware of in this country than at any time in our recorded history. Some are such success stories that they have become nuisances, and are offering new opportunities for sportsmen to hunt, and as the money generated by this goes back into fish and wildlife departments it’s a win, win situation. The money given to anti-hunting groups, again, not so much. So the next time you are riding around and see some deer, or a bear, or a moose, thank a sportsman, the antis complaining, and belittling had literally nothing to do with it.

    • “The most dangerous non native invasive species occupies about 2/3rds of the seats in the State House, and they don’t like hunting, and therein lies the rub.” You’re a wonder, Pat.

  3. How do animals in the wild die? They are eaten alive, freeze to death, starve to death, get an injury and suffer a long slow death.

    This is nature, people have no idea how nature works, people have no respect for nature. They have an affinity for cultural marxism and have even less understanding of civics and what a republic is.

    This is a product of our educational system……it’s wide spread.

    Vermont has an ongoing issue….

    Affordability, Drugs and Education

    Can’t fix stupid.