On the heels of disagreements between legislators and the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and Board (VFW) over control of hunting hounds, the Chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy has introduced S.258 which would restructure the Fish & Wildlife Board and prohibit the hunting of coyotes with dogs. On December 14, 2023 the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) filed objections to VFW’s new coyote hunting with dogs rules arguing that the regulations failed to meet the legislative mandate of Act 165. LCAR’s objections were centered on the inability of hound hunters to recall loose dogs, having recommended that the animals be kept within sight and voice control. VFW has argued that GPS tone and shock collars are effective at recalling dogs when they stray onto posted property.

S.258 As Introduced on January 12, 2024

Members of the Fish & Wildlife Board and legal counsel for VFW, Catherine Gjessing have all called LCAR’s recommendations a “defecto ban” on coyote hunting with dogs, stating it is impossible to keep coyote hounds within sight during a hunt. LCAR voted to approve most of the new coyote hunting and trapping rules in November 2023, but because VFW was unwilling to compromise on the control of loose dogs and some trapping issues, LCAR filed four objections which leaves VFW open to possible litigation. Because of LCAR’s objections, the burden of proof would be on VFW to prove that the new rules meet legislative intent.

Back in January 2022, the Vermont Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy first introduced S.281 which quite simply proposed to prohibit the pursuit of coyote with the aid of dogs, either for the training of dogs or for the taking of coyote. Senator Christopher Bray, the Chair of the committee and a member of LCAR was one of the legislators who reached a compromise with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department over concerns about control of loose dogs. But when the final rules were written, VFW and the Board had agreed that GPS tone and shock collars were adequate as a control method.

Vermont Wildlife Patrol’s February 2022 investigation of coyote hunting with hounds in Addison County, Vermont.

A much more timely disagreement between both members of LCAR and the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy is over whether the moratorium on coyote hunting with dogs that resulted from the passage of S.281 in May 2022 is still in effect. Following the filing of objections, LCAR wrote to VFW stating:

The five members of LCAR who voted to file the fourth objection in certified form are of the opinion that the fourth objection being filed in certified form shifts the burden of proof to the Fish and Wildlife Board in any action for judicial review or for enforcement of the rule related to Secs. 3.6 and 4.20, see 3 V.S.A. ยง 842(c)(2), and should be interpreted as evidence that the current moratorium on pursuing coyote with the aid of dogs is not lifted upon the effective date of the November 30, 2023, Rule, if adopted, because Secs. 3.6 and 4.20 of the November 30, 2023, Rule do not meet the minimum requirements of the rules required by Sec. 3 of Act 165, specifically Sec. 3(b)(4), and therefore the triggering event for the repeal of the moratorium in Act 165, Sec. 2(b) has not been met. This opinion is consistent with the intent of the General Assembly that the moratorium on pursuing coyote with aid of dogs remain in place until the effective date of a Fish and Wildlife Board rule that meets the minimum requirements of Act 165, Sec. 3, of which the November 30, 2023, Rule does not.

Addison County, Vermont hound hunters

Less than a week after receiving the above letter from LCAR regarding the moratorium, on December 18, 2023 VFW issued a press release stating that the new coyote rules were now in effect and permit applications for coyote hunting with dogs were now available until January 15th when a lottery would be held if applications exceeded the 100 available permits. As of January 9th, only 35 applications had been received. No coyote hunting with dogs is allowed until permits are received according to VFW.

Link to Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s Hunting Coyotes with Dogs page:


On January 12, 2024 Senator Bray sponsored and introduced S.258 to change the consumptive user focused Fish & Wildlife Board’s appointment process and to make the board advisory only. The bill would also prohibit hunting coyotes with dogs. During the December 2023 LCAR hearings, Bray indicated to constituents that it was his hope that the moratorium on coyote hunting with dogs would remain in effect until S.258 could be passed this legislative session.

Meanwhile, with permits likely to be issued as soon as January 16th, hound hunters are likely to break the moratorium on hunting coyotes with dogs when the next snow falls providing optimum hunting conditions for finding fresh coyote tracks. Vermont Wildlife Patrol will be monitoring coyote hunting with dogs to document whether hunters are indeed able to recall loose dogs as the new rules require.

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