Hounding in Vermont
By Sophie Bowater • October 2021
I moved to Vermont in 2002 and was so impressed with the community here and the beauty of all my surroundings. I loved that there were so many environmental people in this state that cared about nature and wildlife. I still love that about Vermont, that hasn’t changed. I have worked with animals most of my life. I got involved with Protect Our Wildlife around 2016 and have been on the advisory board for three years. The more I learn about what is happening in Vermont the more upset I get.
What is Hounding:
We have one of the longest hounding seasons in the country. It starts with training on June 1st when wildlife are having babies and goes till September 15th. September 1st is the date they are allowed to start killing the animals and this goes on till November 21st. So bears and other wildlife don’t get much of a break from packs of hounds running through the woods terrorizing them. Bears come out of their dens after a long winter, hungry and ready to eat and feed their cubs if they have them and they can be chased for miles depleting them of important fat reserves and necessary nutrients. These hounds are let loose while their owners sit in their trucks with their GPS devices tracking them and the hounds have GPS collars on to let their owners know if they have stressed and chased an animal up a tree or are having an unfair animal fight on the ground. When I say unfair, I mean, how can 6 hounds up against one bear or one coyote or one raccoon or one wildcat be fair? And then there is the hounder(s) who show up with their gun and decide whether they will shoot the animal or let it go.They could be miles away when their owners hear they have found an animal. This is considered control in Vermont! There have been many cases where Mama bears are separated from their cubs by this horrible sport. Also, in June is when there are nesting birds, fawns, coyote pups, and many other baby animals that have been born that are being terrorized by this horrendous sport. I tried to see if the board would consider making the training time start later in the summer so the baby animals have more of a chance. Of course my question was ignored.
There are many people in Vermont that own large plots of land and have come into contact with hounders on their land. This has definitely become more of an issue lately and has brought more light to this horrible sport. The posting rules are incredibly challenging in Vermont, which is just one more thing we are trying to change. But even with posting, some hounders would say that their hounds can’t read signs or the date hasn’t been changed so they are not doing anything wrong. There are people that haven't wanted to post their land to let ethical hunters and hikers enjoy their property but hounding has made them decide to post their land. One couple last year had a pack of hounds in pursuit of a coyote and tore his 60ft greenhouse apart as well as brutally attacking this one coyote, breaking its tail and drawing lots of blood. They said their kids were watching from the window and it was so traumatic and real. The police told them they needed to post their property for this not to happen again. Basically, it seems like property owners have no rights to their property unless they post their land every year. This is ridiculous! Anyway, as I said, we are working on this too but another subject so won’t go on about it. Also, hounds don’t always get treated very well depending on their owner. Some are underfed as witnessed in pictures of all their ribs showing. Some are dumped if they are not performing the way their owners like. Some might get hit by a car in the road they are crossing or by the wild animal it was chasing. And some live in little kennels all their lives until they are let loose in the woods. These hounders say it is a way of life and a historical tradition. How can chasing and torturing wildlife and their families be enjoyable? It is definitely historical but so is slavery and are we still doing that? No, it was abolished due to the inhumanity of it which is what should happen to hounding. It should be something that happened in the history books and should be banished. It is not real hunting. It is a pathetic, sad, horrific, torturesome, and unfair way of taking down an animal.
What Can You Do?
- Write to your Senators and Representatives.
- Write to the Fish and Wildlife Department
- Become a member of Protect Our Wildlife
- Spread the word to friends so more of the community knows what hounding is all about.