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Vermont Legislature
Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

Vermont House Votes To Ban Coyote-Killing Competitions

A coyote walks in snowy wooded area.
The Vermont House has voted to prohibit the holding of coyote-killing tournaments.

The ban on “holding or participating" in coyote-killing tournaments was included in a major fish and wildlife bill that passed the Vermont House this week.

It's estimated there are between 6,000 and 9,000 coyotes in Vermont, and people can hunt them at any time of the year.

Backers of the ban, such as Underhill Rep. Trevor Squirrell, said the competitions serve no useful purpose and run counter to the state's hunting culture.

"It addresses what many Vermonters feel is unacceptable and unethical activity that occurs toward coyotes, the incentivized killing of an animal through an organized competition,” said Squirrell. “This type of activity violates hunter ethics."

"It addresses what many Vermonters feel is unacceptable and unethical activity that occurs toward coyotes, the incentivized killing of an animal through an organized competition." — Underhill Rep. Trevor Squirrell

Derby Rep. Brian Smith tried to remove the ban from the bill because he feels coyotes are harmful to many types of wildlife, and he says it's clear that some people who support the ban are not hunters.

"They like looking at these pretty little carnivores, if you want to call them that,” said Smith. “I've hunted for a long time. I pride myself on being a good, legal hunter, and I've seen what coyotes can do to a small deer." 

From Brave Little State: What's The Deal With Coydogs? (Jan. 6, 2017)

The House voted Wednesday to keep the ban on a vote of 79-45.

The debate then turned to the penalties for people who violate the ban, including a fine of up to $1,000 and a maximum 60 days in jail.

Westminster Rep. David Deen — the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife — acknowledged that his committee didn't spend a lot of time on the penalty section of the bill, but Deen says tough penalties reflect the seriousness of the crime.

"We wanted to make what we thought was an egregious violation of the conservation model a major offense, a major Fish and Wildlife offense, and this was the easy way to do it,” said Deen.

From Vermont EditionCoyote Hunting Spurs Debate Over Ethics And Ecology (Feb. 13, 2017)

But St. Johnsbury Rep. Janssen Willhoit said he was concerned about Deen's comments that not much time was spent on the penalty section.

"It's troubling to me that in this discussion we thought ... 'Sending someone to jail — that's not a big deal. We don't even need 10 words on that,'" said Wilhoit. "That's really troubling that we have gotten to the point that we see sending someone to jail [as] not a big deal anymore."

The jailtime penalty for violating the coyote killing ban was subsequently removed from the version of the bill that received final approval in the House on Thursday afternoon.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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