Vermont Wildlife Patrol’s October 2023 testimony to the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules.

For months, Vermont Wildlife Patrol and many other wildlife advocates have testified to the shortcomings of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department & Board’s proposed changes to trapping and coyote hunting rules. On October 5, 2023 the Vermont Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) met to review the proposed changes to determine if they met the legislative intent of both law’s, Act 159 and Act 165. Act 159 mandated that the department propose changes to trapping to reduce the level of suffering experienced by animals in traps, and to reduce the risk of capture of domestic pets. Act 165 establishes rules and regulations for the hunting of coyotes with hounds, a previously unregulated sport in Vermont and most states in the country.

The October 5th hearing was an opportunity for Vermont Fish & Wildlife officials to explain to LCAR their reasoning behind their weak proposed changes, which heavily favored trappers and hound hunters by excluding many forms of trapping and hounding from any changes. A second hearing on October 19th, gave wildlife advocates including members of Vermont Wildlife Patrol, Animal Wellness Action, Green Mountain Animal Defenders, Protect Our Wildlife, Vermont Wildlife Coalition, Project Coyote, In Defense of Animals and other citizens the opportunity to respond. One of the citizen’s testifying was Katy Cupo, from Castleton who’s German shepherd was caught in a legally set body-gripping trap on October 3rd. The trap was set for beaver the day before by a nuisance trapper recommended by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to Castleton University which owns the land the trap was set on.

The October 19th LCAR hearing. Public testimony begins at 9:15.

Public testimony from Vermont Wildlife Patrol focused on two major shortfalls of the proposed trapping changes, the failure of the department to provide any scientific evidence that the 220 body-gripping trap currently used to kill fisher in Vermont, had passed BMP testing as required by Act 159 and secondly, the exclusion of traps placed in the water from any recommended trail and road setback rule. Already at the October 5th LCAR hearing, committee members expressed many concerns that the department’s proposal did not include all trails in Vermont, instead only those mapped by the Department of Transportation.

We provided video testimony to LCAR from an active Department of Transportation nuisance beaver trapping site in West Pawlet on the D&H Rail Trail, where body-gripping and foot-hold traps were placed less than twenty feet from trails used by dog walkers. Our testimony illustrated how traps that were placed in the water would continue to pose dangers to domestic pets under the current recommended changes that exclude all traps placed in the water. In Vermont, the majority of trapping is done for beaver and muskrat, both aquatic species, yet Vermont Fish & Wildlife excluded water trapping from any proposed impact of Act 159.

Link to evidence provided by Vermont Wildlife Patrol to LCAR:§%2044,%20Furbearing%20Species/Rod%20Coronado%20Testimony/W~Rod%20Coronado%20Testimony~23-P15%20-%20Rod%20Coronado%20Testimony~10-3-2023.pdf

On October 27, 2023 LCAR members briefed the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department on why they believed the current proposed changes did not meet legislative intent in a memo that explained the four major areas the committee felt were in contradiction to legislative intent. The first was to not include all Vermont trails from trap setback rules and the second was the failure to include traps in the water from the reach of Act 159.

“In the water” beaver traps intended to drown animals after capture at West Pawlet, Vermont September 30, 2023

We are also of the opinion that it is inconsistent with the intent of the General Assembly and arbitrary to exempt traps that are in the water or under ice from setback requirements. There was no reference to any such exemption in Act 159, nor do we think that it makes sense to a reasonable person that individuals, potentially with their domesticated animals, would not be recreating in water or on ice that is within 50 feet of the edge of the traveled portion of a legal trail, public trail, or public highway. We would like to see this exemption eliminated from Furbearing Species Rule, Sec. 4.15.

Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules October 27, 2023

The October 27, 2023 LCAR memo to Fish & Wildlife.

The other issues taken by LCAR were with the recommended method of control of loose hounds by coyote hunters to still only be by GPS radio shock, tone and tracking collars. Under the recommended changes, there were no meaningful changes made to the practice of hunting coyotes with hounds, only rules governing the existing practices like using GPS collars to track hounds as they sometimes roam miles of terrain. Committee members suggest hounds be within eyesight and controlled by voice commands.

The last substantiative disagreement made was to address what was clearly an attempt by the department to place trapping under the protection of Vermont’s Constitution which currently protects only “hunting, fowling and fishing.” Within the proposed changes, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board had also voted to change the definition of trapping in Vermont to a means of hunting, not a separate practice. LCAR cited no legislative intent for such a change, and requested that the change be omitted.

Next comes the November 1st, 2023 Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board meeting, where members of the board must vote to approve any recommended changes to the current and previously voted on proposal which has now been rejected by LCAR. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board could vote to move the current proposal forward without LCAR’s support and the rules could be promulgated without LCAR’s recommended changes, but such a path would leave the Board open to what would be a certain court challenge by wildlife advocates including Vermont Wildlife Patrol.

Hear Vermont Fish & Wildlife legal counsel, Catherine Gjessing explaining what the department did not want the public to hear.

On November 2, 2023 LCAR will reconvene to possibly review and vote on any new proposed changes from the Fish & Wildlife Department and Board, which must be received by Noon, October 30, 2023. All relevant documents including Vermont Wildlife Patrol’s testimony and supporting evidence is available from the LCAR website. The October 5th hearing schedule includes mostly written testimony, whereas the October 19th hearing included mostly verbal testimony from 40 witnesses.

Join Vermont Wildlife Patrol as we continue to fight for our animal relations! Come to the November, 1st Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board meeting:

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board will hold a virtual meeting at 5:00 pm. November 1, 2023 Most Board Members and department staff will be attending remotely. There is an in-person option for members of the public who cannot attend virtually, at the Davis Building, 1 National Life Drive, Montpelier, VT 05620.

Click below for meeting agenda and link to watch remotely!

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