On December 14th, 2023, in its sixth hearing on Vermont’s proposed new trapping and coyote hounding rules, the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) voted to certify four objections to major portions of the state’s new trapping and coyote hunting with hounds laws. Both the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department (VFW) and Fish & Wildlife Board have expressed that LCAR’s objection to the use of GPS shock and tone collars as a control method for coyote hunting hounds equates to a “de facto ban” on the practice. Recognizing that there is no effective means to recall loose hunting hounds when they either trespass or attack pets and livestock, LCAR recommended amending the proposed rules to include keeping hounds in visual sight and under voice commands, which board members stated was “impossible.” According to the VFW’s new Hunting Coyotes with the Aid of Dogs web page the new rules state that, “…at all times during training dogs and taking of coyote with the aid of dogs the permittee shall be able to locate and remotely recall the dogs.”

Vermont Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules December 14, 2023 letter to Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department

The certification of the objection with the Secretary of State was accompanied with a letter to the Fish & Wildlife Department explaining why LCAR members believed the moratorium on coyote hunting with hounds remains in effect because the Department’s definition of control did not meet the minimum legislative intent of Act 165. From the 12/14/23 letter:

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.

Curiously, on the Hunting Coyotes with the aid of Dogs web page, VFW chose only to provide a public link to LCAR’s letter to the Secretary of State, not its letter to VFW which included the above language regarding the moratorium.

Three other objections were certified with the Secretary of State related to a proposal to redefine trapping as a form of hunting, the definition of public trails and a proposed exemption from setback requirements for traps that are placed in the water. The redefinition of trapping as a form of hunting would have provided greater constitutional protections for the controversial practice. Vermont’s Constitution includes provisions on hunting, fishing and fowling, but not trapping. Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department legal counsel, Catherine Gjessing testified that the change was simply “housekeeping” and when asked by the Chair of LCAR whether the legislative mandate of Act 159 directed the Department to enact such a change, her response was “no.” (see video below)

Vermont Fish & Wildlife legal counsel, Catherine Gjessing answering LCAR Chair, Trevor Squirrell’s questions about objections.

In response to LCAR’s objections, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board held a special meeting on December 14, 2023 where board members voted unanimously to advance the new rules despite the four objections from LCAR. When board member, Paul Noel asked the Commissioner of Vermont Fish & Wildlife, “I want clarification on what would happen with the coyote hounding moratorium if we do vote to advance these rules tonight…” Commissioner Christopher Herrick responded, We are looking at our legal options right now.”

On December 18, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department’s website was updated to include a page where applicants could begin the process to obtain a coyote dog permit with a application deadline of January 15, 2024. When Vermont Wildlife Patrol asked Commissioner Herrick about the moratorium, he responded, “In accordance with Vermont law, the Fish and Wildlife Board has the authority to adopt the Furbearing Species Rules after responding to the LCAR objections. The adopted rules have been filed and will become effective January 1, 2023.  As such, the moratorium is automatically repealed on that date.”

VFW Hunting Coyotes with Dogs webpage:


LCAR’s objections pave the way for legal challenges to the new rules with the burden of proof resting on the Fish & Wildlife Department. Due to the objection to the definition of “control” in regards to coyote hounds, if challenged in court, the Department will have to convince a judge that GPS shock and tone collars do indeed equate to control and thus meet the legislative mandate of Act 165.

Vermont Wildlife Patrol will resume its citizen monitoring of coyote hunting with hounds across the state in January 2024, if indeed the moratorium on coyote hunting with hounds is lifted. The intent of our monitoring effort will be to ascertain whether hound hunters are in accordance with new regulations, specifically the ability to remotely recall loose hounds. We will also be gathering evidence to provide to legislators to illustrate what hunting coyotes with dogs in Vermont really looks like.

Photo shared on Facebook by Wallingford, Vermont hound hunter, Terance Wilbur.

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