Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Trapping, hound hunting cruel

I recently became aware that Vermont’s Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge allows both the hounding of bears, bobcats, coyotes and other wildlife, as well as the use of leghold and body crushing Conibear kill traps. Hounding and trapping conflict with what should be the purpose of Refuge lands: to conserve wildlife in the midst of our planet facing its sixth mass extinction.

Hounding and trapping results in injuring or killing not only the targeted victims, but non-targeted animals as well. Hunting and fishing are also permitted on the Refuge, and some may even argue that it is difficult to call a place a wildlife refuge when it allows any killing at all. However, hounding and trapping are in their own category for good reason. The Refuge recently held a public comment period on their new hunting plan and close to 4,400 people signed a petition urging them to prohibit hounding. The massive public opposition should demonstrate to Vermont’s National Wildlife Refuge that a change in policy is necessary. Vermonters should be finding out shortly what the result is — I don’t hold out much hope.

Hounding is a cruel form of hunting, where hounders release their powerful packs of uncontrolled hounds to hunt lone coyotes, bears, bobcats and other wild animals. The hounds chase the animal to exhaustion for miles. Some animals like bears may flee up a tree to escape, while others like coyotes and foxes are left on the ground cornered by tenacious hounds. They’re left to defend themselves, oftentimes injured, against six or more hounds, an act I consider akin to animal fighting.

Further, because hounding seasons occur during the majority of the year, between the training and hunting seasons, the violent chases often cause mothers to be separated from their dependent young. As a result, bear cubs, bobcat kits and other vulnerable animals are placed in direct danger.

Additionally, hounding poses a threat to non-targeted animals such as deer fawn and moose calves, especially during the hound training season that starts on June 1 — when wildlife are birthing and nursing their young. Untrained hounds are let loose by their owners who are miles away, using only a GPS tracking device to monitor the hounds’ location. Consequently, hounds may indiscriminately attack non-targeted species. For example, though the Canada lynx is a protected species, they can be easily mistaken for bobcats — a legal “game” animal. Canada lynx have been documented on the Refuge.

Lastly, due to its inherently reckless nature, hounding leaves the public and our pets at risk. In October 2019, a retired couple and their leashed puppy were attacked by bear hounds in Addison County. Additionally, hounding is allowed on both our public lands and private lands; even if you post your property, the hounds cannot read signs and therefore inevitably violate property owner rights. Though there is no logical reason for this irresponsible activity to be allowed on a Refuge, political pandering by powerful national sportsmen’s groups likely plays a role.

Let our legislators know that we have had enough of legalized animal cruelty passed off as conservation and tradition; it is neither.

Katherine “Katie” Kraczkowsky

Middlebury

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