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Hikers Attacked By Bear Hunting Dogs, Legislators Consider Changing Regulations

A hunter silhouetted against a sunset.
Two hikers and their dog were attacked by several bear hunting dogs last month. Addison County Independent reporter Christopher Ross covered the story and spoke with VPR's Mitch Wertlieb about it.

An attack by bear hunting hounds has some lawmakers looking at changing the regulations around the practice of hunting bears with dogs.

Last month, a couple hiking on the Catamount Trail in Ripton say they were attacked by a pack of bear hunting hounds. The owner of the dogs has been charged with a criminal violation of the regulation requiring bear hunters to be in control of their dogs at all times.

Reporter Christopher Ross of the Addison County Independent has been following the story. He spoke to VPR's Mitch Wertlieb about the incident itself, and the practice of hunting with dogs and how it's regulated.

Read the Addison County Independent story here.

Ron Scapp and Meryl Siegman, both in their 60s, said they were attacked by five dogs, which they described as 60-80 pounds, wearing GPS collars. The hounds attacked first the couple's own dog, a leashed 30-pound poodle-terrier mix, then went after Siegman when she tried to defend the pup.

The couple successfully drove off the dogs, but not before both Siegman and their dog Willow were seriously hurt: They both sustained multiple wounds and received emergency medical treatment.

"It was a very scary experience for [the couple], and I've seen photos of the wounds and have been keeping up with their dog's progress," Ross said. "It has been a slow and painful ordeal."

He added that the owner of the dogs that attacked the couple has apologized and offered to pay for their veterinary bills.

In the course of his reporting, Ross spoke to some lawmakers about the possibility of reviewing the regulation governing the hunting of bears with dogs, which requires that hunters maintain control of their dogs.

"The focus is going to be on the language," Ross said. "Getting more clarity about what 'control' means, and finding a way to make it more clear, not only so that Fish and Wildlife has a clear understanding of what they can and cannot enforce, but also so that hunters and other users of public land understand."

He said he does not think it's likely that the practice of bear hunting will be threatened by this incident.

"No one is out to do away with bear hound hunting in the state," Ross said. "And in fact, I've spoken to bear biologists and other wildlife biologists, and the Fish and [Wildlife] Department relies on bear hound hunting to manage nuisance bears that may have been conditioned to tolerate human interaction, and so it's complicated."

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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