This is a condensed video of the November 16, 2023 Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules hearing where lawmakers voted to object to four key provisions of VFW’s proposed trapping and coyote hounding rules.

On November 16, 2023 Vermont’s Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) voted to approve the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department’s (VFW) proposed trapping and coyote hunting with hounds rules, but with four key objections that could lead to legal challenges in the future on the grounds that the rules did not meet the legislative intent of both Acts 159 and 165.

Both laws directed the Commissioner of Fish & Wildlife to propose new regulations for hunting coyotes with hounds and trapping rules to reduce the instances of domestic pet captures and the level of suffering experienced by animals in traps. In hearings that began in October, LCAR has shared the concerns of wildlife advocates that the rules favor trappers and hounders more than the interests of public safety and wildlife. At the October 19, 2023 LCAR hearing on the subject, Vermont Wildlife Patrol was one of the numerous groups testifying as to why the proposed rules failed legislative intent, such as body-gripping traps that have not passed Best Management Practices (BMP) tests or the exemption of traps in the water from new rules that would require traps be set at least 50 feet from public roads and trails.

In October 2023, a cat was caught in this trap in Williston, Vermont.

On November 16, VFW Legal Counsel Catherine Gjessing weakly explained why the Department believed its proposed rules met legislative intent, including her description of over two dozen witnesses who testified against the rules in October as being “sophisticated animal rights advocates…who represent a minority of Vermont.” Yet, the 2022 Responsive Management survey that VFW often cites as an indicator of Vermonter opinions on trapping recorded 68% of respondents being opposed to recreational trapping. Later during the hearing, Senator Christopher Bray explained why he was introducing a motion to approve the rules but with objections saying that as Chair of the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, he believed the proposed rules did not fully meet the legislative intent of both Act 159 and 165. He then introduced a motion to object to VFW’s exemption of traps in the water or under ice from the new required setback from public trails of fifty feet on the grounds that the legislature did not instruct the Commissioner to make such an exemption. In Vermont, the majority of all trapping takes place in the water and under the ice, often immediately off of trails and roads where beavers are active.

Like other fighting dogs, coyote hounds are taught and praised for their bloodlust.

Next, Senator Bray introduced a second motion to object to the definition of control of dogs which VFW’s proposed rules say are GPS collars that monitor the movements of loose hounds without maintaining visual contact. In a memo to VFW dated October 26, four LCAR members stated, “While we can see value in using a training/control collar as that term is proposed to be defined, we would like to see proposed modifications to Furbearing Species Rule, Sec. 4.20 that actually effectuate the General Assembly’s intent as expressed in Act 165, possibly through requirements around maintaining dogs that are being used to aid in the taking of coyote in visual site or under voice control, or both.”

Later, Rep. Mark Higley would say that such an objection could amount to a defacto ban on hunting coyotes with hounds. Representative Seth Bongartz then made a motion to object to VFW’s proposed new definition of trapping, which would increase the likelihood that it might become a protected activity under the Vermont Constitution which does protect hunting. Rep. Bongartz then introduced a second motion to object to VFW’s proposed definition of public trails which VFW has worked tirelessly to exclude trails used by trappers such as the VAST trail network.

Over 350 coyotes were trapped and reported in Vermont’s mandatory trapper survey during the 2020-21 season. Unfortunately, on average 30% of licensed Vermont trappers fail to return the surveys according to VFW’s own records.

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and Board must now respond to LCAR’s objections by November 30, 2023. If the failure to meet legislative intent is not addressed to the satisfaction of LCAR, the rules will move forward but be subject to legal challenges by a host of affected individuals and organizations. To view testimony submitted on behalf of Vermont’s wildlife by advocates, please visit:

To view the November 30, 2023 LCAR hearing or watch any of the past four LCAR hearings on this issue please visit:

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