John Aberth: Why are we killing the only animal that can increase wildlife habitat?

Lisa Jablow: Vermont wildlife management practices need to be reviewed

This comment is from Brattleboro resident Lisa Jablow.

In recent years, numerous incidents in Vermont have driven the practice of hunting from shadow to light.

Along with hunting and trapping, hunting is a sacred cow. Its supporters reverently refer to it as a long-standing “tradition”. Its opponents argue that just because it’s been practiced for hundreds of years doesn’t mean it’s right. And so, the controversy continues to run after its own tail.

When hunting, dogs fitted with a GPS collar are released from confinement to track the scent of a bear, coyote, raccoon or other prey. This animal is often chased for miles while hunting dogs remotely follow their hounds from the comfort of their vehicles.

Once it appears that the prey has been cornered, the trackers locate and retrieve their dogs. This can take a considerable amount of time, depending on the terrain and the distance travelled. Chasing dogs can violate private property rights (they “can’t read signs”) and endanger people’s pets and livestock. When challenged by landowners, some hunting dogs have exhibited aggressive behavior.

Once the dogs hunt for prey is activated, it is impossible to control them. Often they chase animals out of the woods and across fields and onto roads, endangering animals and motorists. A deer, moose or even an unlucky hiker can become a target.

In 2019, a couple and their puppy on a leash were attacked on public land by a pack of bears for 45 minutes before help arrived. Pet dogs caught in the woods chasing deer could be put down by law enforcement, but the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife is giving the dogs a pass, saying the hunt is an important tool for population management and nuisance control, although dogs are rarely used for these purposes.

In fact, Fish & Wildlife actively promotes harassment and hunting, but does far less to educate the public about preventing behaviors that draw wildlife too close to humans, thus triggering complaints that are then used to justify harassment.

A fleeing bear or raccoon may try to climb a tree if lucky. However, coyotes and foxes are cornered and mauled by dogs, because there is no escape. This scenario seriously raises the distinction between hunting and dogfighting, not to mention the issue of fair hunting.

Hunting dog training season begins when the bears are most vulnerable, having recently emerged from hibernation with cubs to care for. Between dog training (when bears can’t be shot) and the actual hunting season (when they can), bear hunting lasts half the year. Coyote hunting is completely unregulated, takes place year-round, and does not require a dog license.

With a growing concern for wildlife welfare and the declining popularity of hunting, it is imperative to review Vermont’s wildlife management practices.

Because the current Vermont Fish & Wildlife organization does not represent most wildlife advocates, wildlife advocates will take our case to the Legislature, where there is a chance for democracy.

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Tags: hunting, Lisa Jablow, Vermont Fish & Wildlife, wildlife advocates


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