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